BROOKSVILLE — Carlene Frazer watched as the mother of her husband's killer asked a judge for leniency.
Julius Holder is a good man who made a bad decision, Loretta Sanders told Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Sr. during her son's sentencing hearing Wednesday. He loves his two young daughters, but he also knows he has to pay for his crime, Sanders said.
Then Sanders apologized to Frazer's family.
"I hope that one day they will forgive him," she said, "because he's a good child."
"Never," Frazer said quietly from the first row.
Shortly thereafter, Merritt sentenced Holder to 35 years in prison for the murder of 30-year-old Kenardo Frazer. The sentence is five years shy of the maximum term Holder could have received after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. The deal called for a prison term of at least 25 years.
According to authorities, Frazer and 27-year-old Dunell Brown had argued hours before Frazer was killed one rainy night in March 2011. Earlier, Frazer had an altercation and threatened a woman at a house on Anderson Road where he lived and where Brown sometimes stayed. Frazer reportedly flashed a knife.
Brown called Holder, his cousin, and told him to "bring the fire," meaning a gun.
Holder, Brown and 33-year-old Charles Bottom tracked down Frazer and chased him to a front yard on Howell Avenue, north of downtown Brooksville. There, authorities say, Holder pulled the trigger of a 9mm pistol, shooting Frazer twice. No other weapon was found.
All three men were initially charged with first-degree murder; they later reached plea deals with prosecutors.
Brown, the son of the late pro football star Jerome Brown, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. In June, Merritt sentenced him to 25 years in prison, five years shy of the maximum. Bottom, 33, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a 12-year sentence during that same hearing.
Carlene Frazer lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and works as a nurse, with a part-time job as a caregiver for autistic children. She flew to Florida for Holder's hearing.
The murder left the couple's 6-year-old daughter without a dad, she told Merritt. Her 16-year-old son from a previous relationship also considered Frazer a father. "I'm not here for revenge," Frazer said. "I'm just here to see justice done."
She burst into tears a few minutes later when Holder apologized and asked for the Frazer family's "mercy and grace." He said he knows that will be difficult. "I feel sorry for what I did," he said. "It hurts."
A staffer from the State Attorney's Office read a statement from other members of Frazer's family who flew down for the sentencing hearing in June but couldn't make it this time.
Holder has a previous conviction for selling cocaine. His attorney, Charles Greene, said Holder's urge to protect his family clouded his judgment that night. This was not his battle," Greene said. "He just got pulled into it."
The crime wasn't committed in a moment of passion, prosecutor Pete Magrino countered. Holder had time to consider his actions as he looked for Frazer, then chased him.
Merritt acknowledged that Holder has young children and a family that cares about him. "You took a human life, and human life is sacred," Merritt said. "Once you take it, you can't give it back. Life is as precious to this man you shot as it is to you, and you're accountable for your actions that night."
After the hearing, Carlene Frazer said Holder, despite his words, looked bored. She wanted Merritt to levy the maximum penalty. Ideally, she said, Holder would have received the death penalty.
"I don't see no remorse in him," she said. "I hope one day I will find it in myself to forgive him and move on."
She said her daughter wakes up and talks about meeting her father in her dreams. "I saw Dad," the girl said one day, "and he told me he was in heaven."
Times staff photojournalist Octavio Jones contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.