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Cries for justice at Lotto winner's funeral service

LAKELAND — Lotto winner Abraham Shakespeare's loved ones remembered him Saturday as a man who shared his $11 million windfall with people in need, moved by compassion to pay for their mortgages, cars and funerals.

Ten months after he disappeared and a little more than a week since his remains were found beneath a slab of concrete in Plant City, the people leading Shakespeare's funeral at the New Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church were not yet ready to show compassion toward those responsible for his killing.

"Justice!" cried Pastor H.B. Holmes. "I'm calling on justice! Deception has got to go."

Whoever was involved, Shakespeare's friend Eddie Dixon said, "they need the electric chair."

So far, only one woman has been charged in connection with the 42-year-old former day laborer's death. Dorice "DeeDee" Moore — a Plant City native with a history of dishonesty who befriended Shakespeare after he hit the jackpot — was arrested Feb. 2 on a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder.

Detectives continue to investigate whether Moore, 37, or someone else actually killed him.

Several members of the Polk County Sheriff's Office attended Saturday's service. The agency began investigating Shakespeare's disappearance in November after a cousin reported him missing.

Detectives David Wallace and Dave Clark received a standing ovation from the congregation of more than 200 people.

"They worked night and day around the clock as if this was their own family," said their boss, Maj. Joe Halman.

Halman used his remarks to touch upon the downside of riches, a theme that carried throughout the service. Shakespeare's mother, Elizabeth Walker, told reporters last week that her son grew miserable as people called constantly to ask him for money.

Moore ended up owning all of Shakespeare's real estate holdings, including his Lakeland mansion that she bought for a little more half of its $1.1 million price. She has denied stealing from him.

"The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil," Halman said.

The message Saturday was not solely about justice. Speakers offered comfort to Shakespeare's grieving family and celebrated him for his generosity.

Holmes, the officiating pastor, likened Shakespeare to the good Samaritan who helped the downtrodden. He warned the congregation not to get too caught up in material things.

There were tissues and tears but also joyful prayer and singing. The church smelled of perfume from the women dressed in their best and the flower arrangements at the altar.

"No more crying there, we are going to see the king," the choir sang as Shakespeare's mother and a large procession of supporters entered the church.

Walker and one of Shakespeare's sons, 8-year-old Moses, sat in the front row, just feet away from the casket draped with an all-white bouquet of roses, pussy willow, orchids and chrysanthemums. Pictures of Shakespeare showed his trademark dreadlocks.

Moses Shakespeare asked to speak before the service ended. Overcome with emotion, the child was only able to get out a few sentences.

"I just miss all the good times," he said.

Inside the church, Diane Ashley sang of how a mother's love comes with no charge.

Outside the church, she said the recent answers about Shakespeare's whereabouts had lifted the burden of not knowing for his mother. But Ashley, who was Shakespeare's boss before he won the lottery, said there are now more questions about why someone would harm him.

"It's no healing," she said. "It doesn't close anything."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Cries for justice at Lotto winner's funeral service 02/06/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 6, 2010 10:19pm]
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