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Two life sentences for St. Petersburg murderer

LARGO — Demarlis Melvin shot and killed another man at St. Petersburg's Citrus Grove apartments and nearly killed another, in what prosecutor Doug Ellis called "the quintessential drive-by shooting."

So Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert gave the 22-year-old man two life sentences on Monday. A jury convicted him earlier this year of murder and attempted murder.

Family members of the man Melvin killed, Michael K. Smith III, 18, said they feel such an intense pain they could never wish it on anyone.

"He was my only son. I saw him take his last breath," Smith's mother, Breeshell Devine, said, sobbing deeply. Now, she said of her only child, "I want to hold my baby again. I want to touch him."

With Melvin looking at her, Devine said he "was so heartless during his trial," and told him "if you were a real man you'd have manned up to what you did."

Melvin muttered that he didn't do it.

When Covert asked Smith's mother if she had anything more to say regarding Melvin, she said, "I wish his a-- was dead."

Smith's father, Michael K. Smith Jr., describing himself as a man of God, said he hopes Melvin will let God into his life too. He said he too has felt intense pain from losing a son, but he also believes justice has been served with Melvin's prosecution.

Because of that, he said, "today is a good day."

A grandmother and cousin of Melvin's spoke on his behalf on Monday. Both said Melvin had emotional difficulties as a child. And both said they were deeply sorry for what happened.

The shooting involved young men from Childs Park and Bethel Heights, two neighborhoods with a history of rivalries. But it appears to have begun with an argument.

Melvin was in a Dodge Durango with three other men driving near the Citrus Grove apartments on 16th Street S when an argument broke out between them and some people walking nearby. The men in the Durango returned, and Melvin began firing a gun, according to witnesses. The gun was never recovered, but 9mm shell casings were found nearby.

Melvin shot Smith in the head. He shot the cap off the head of another man, Phillip Peterson, who was not injured.

Reach Curtis Krueger at (727) 893-8232 or ckrueger@sptimes.com.

Two life sentences for St. Petersburg murderer 05/10/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 12:17am]

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