TAMPA — Deon Griffin gazed at the sheets of yellow legal paper he'd scribbled notes on and talked about his wife, Chanet, in the present tense as he asked her family for forgiveness Tuesday in court.
"I have committed a horrible crime. I have ended the life of a beautiful woman who meant the world to me," said Griffin, 35. "I love my wife very much, and she knows this. I pray every day that she will somehow come back to me."
He blamed his actions on drugs the night he stabbed her 15 times, watched her bleed to death, then stole her car and disappeared to get high again on crack cocaine.
Now, he'll spend more time in prison than his wife lived on earth.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Anthony Black sentenced Griffin to the 30-year maximum after a jury convicted him of manslaughter with a weapon. He had faced a second-degree murder charge.
Chanet Nicole Griffin, a child protection investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families, was 26 when she died.
" 'Kiss it, Mommy, and make it better,' Chanet would always ask when she was a child," said her mother, Paula Williams Carter. "Well, this is something I can't kiss and make it better."
Carter referred to her daughter as Chanet Williams, using her maiden name. She was an only child, and now their family line will end, her mother said.
"We are not living anymore, we are just existing," Carter said.
The Griffins had been married for less than three years before the April 29, 2008, stabbing took place at their apartment complex on Bonita Vista Way in Tampa. Chanet Griffin died in a vacant apartment next to the one she shared with her husband, and Deon Griffin was nowhere to be found when deputies arrived.
A day later, authorities issued a warrant for his arrest. They found him at the Salvation Army shelter in downtown Tampa.
Family and friends described a husband who used drugs and stole from his wife, and a woman who kept taking him back.
"She was a fixer, and she stayed with her husband because she wanted to fix him," said Shonda Lockwood, who supervised Chanet Griffin at the DCF. "She said she took her vows seriously. I cringe to think that 'till death do us part' became such a reality for her."
Antonio Williams, Chanet Griffin's father, said Deon Griffin didn't deserve to live.
"Ain't no way in the world he can sit up here and cry for leniency," Williams told the judge. "He deserves the death chair. That's how I feel."
Neither he nor Carter said they could forgive him.
"Hopefully, before your sentence is over, you'll be dead," Carter told Griffin. "I will say now, may you not rest in peace. I have no sympathy or forgiveness for you."
Kevin Graham can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.