TAMPA - Erma Jones says that just two days before her husband was murdered, they discussed how crime was spiraling out of control, how they had to do their part to help stop it. Then William Lee Reed marched into Carrollwood Pharmacy, put a gun in an assistant pharmacist's face and demanded drugs. Osmon Jones, at age 71, stepped in, and in his struggle for the gun, took a single bullet to his head.
That struggle led to a plea agreement reached Monday. The prosecutor worried that even if she won a death sentence at trial, an appeals court might overturn it years down the road because the killing wasn't premeditated. Reed, 42, feared the electric chair, especially because he was on parole for armed robbery when he killed Jones.
So an agreement was reached that spares Reed's life but should keep him locked up forever: four consecutive life sentences plus 95 years for his guilty pleas to the murder of Jones and robberies of four Tampa pharmacies.
Erma Jones had two children, six grandchildren and 51 years with her husband before Reed took his life. "We understand that Mr. Reed asks for his life. We feel that he asked for mercy, and we granted it," she said calmly.
"I would that all young people could understand that we don't do wrong and get by. God created us all equal, in his image and likeness.
But mankind was the only one given a choice. We choose the path we go."
Reed said nothing in court. Afterward, his attorney called his a pathetic case. Reed suffered from blackouts when he was about 12 years old and was put in a mental institution and given drugs. "He told us that ever since the first doctor put a needle in his arm, he's been addicted to drugs," said Assistant Public Defender Craig Alldredge.
He was convicted of armed robberies in Ohio, wasn't accepted into drug treatment there for lack of space, then paroled, Alldredge said.
In Tampa, he was robbing pharmacies, only for the drugs, even turning down the money people tried to give him as he held a gun on them. Reed pleaded guilty to the Aug. 5 robbery at David's Pharmacy, 2302 W Buffalo Ave.; the Aug. 8 robbery at Putney's Pharmacy, 1417 S Howard Ave., when he also stole the gun used to kill Jones; the Sept. 1 robbery at Interbay Discount Drugs, 4332 S Manhattan Ave.; and the Sept. 2 robbery at Carrollwood Pharmacy.
One of Jones' granddaughters, Lisa Gillette, didn't have any rancor in her voice as she summed up her feelings. "It's just a shame that he had to die for some drug addict," she said.
"He was just an innocent that got in the way."