TAMPA — Vanetta Scott approached the judge but turned to the killer.
At Friday's sentencing hearing, it was her chance to talk to the man who aimed for a rival but accidentally killed Scott's daughter, an innocent 18-year-old looking forward to her senior year of high school.
Scott shook her head. "You're a hard man," she started. "I guess at one point, I wanted to know why — why you took my daughter's life away. But it didn't matter because we couldn't bring her back."
Jurors convicted Tyrell Bragg, 23, last month of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Iesha Washington.
Authorities say he meant to shoot Washington's brother, Darrell Hernandez, who had been in a brawl with Bragg outside a Riverview party in 2011. Instead, the bullet hit Washington in the head.
During Friday's hearing, Bragg sat impassively and watched Scott. He chose not to speak himself.
"At one time I was wondering why they didn't pursue first-degree premeditated (murder) because you left and you came back with the gun," Scott said. "You had so much time to think."
It was a fight over a neighborhood rivalry. Progress Village versus Clair-Mel.
"Senseless," according to Scott, lawyers and Circuit Judge Emmett Battles.
Battles sentenced Bragg to 40 years in prison. The minimum Bragg could have received was 25 years. A prosecutor asked for life.
At one point Friday, Scott turned to Bragg's mother.
"Both of us lose. At the end she's losing," Scott said. "But guess what. Every time I go to the grave, you know what I see? Dirt."
Though Bragg chose not to address the court, his sister spoke briefly in his defense.
"He needs education. Education will help him. He wants a science major," she said. "I know I can help him."
When it was over, a bailiff recorded Bragg's fingerprints. Scott wiped her tears and said, "It's over." And Bragg's family just sat still on the wood benches, remaining long after everyone had left.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected]