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Plea bargain gets teen 25-year term

A 16-year-old boy accused of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Michigan tourist in May has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, lawyers said Wednesday. In a deal with the state, David Lee Jenkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with a firearm and attempted murder.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison without any chance of release for three years. His prison sentence is to be followed by 20 years of probation.

"We thought the state had a good chance of convicting him for first-degree murder, which carries a minimum mandatory of 25 years in prison," said Jenkins' attorney, Robert Fraser. "This plea avoided that."

Jenkins was the second teen-ager in October to plead guilty to murder. Three weeks ago, a 17-year-old boy was sentenced to 50 years in prison for shooting a Port Richey photographer to death. Police, lawyers and judges said more and more teens are involved in violent crimes.

"Fifteen years ago, it was extremely rare," said prosecutor Hank Lavandera, who heads the state attorney's juvenile division. "It's become commonplace."

Police said the shooting happened during a drug deal. Annette Marie Hildebrant and Jason Ramirez Hall of Michigan were driving near the Ponce de Leon housing complex on a drug-buying mission, police said.

Somewhere near N 22nd Street and E 19th Avenue, Hall got out of the couple's 1983 Camaro to buy drugs, police said. The deal wasn't completed. Instead, Jenkins, who police said wasn't involved in the deal, got into an argument with Hall and pulled a small-caliber pistol.

Police said Jenkins shot Hall in the back when he tried to get back in his car. Then Jenkins walked over and shot Hildebrant in the chest, police said. The 21-year-old woman died six hours later at Tampa General Hospital.

Hall, 27, was treated and released, police said.

Jenkins' attorney said prosecutors planned to call three witnesses to testify against his client. Prosecutor Kevin Napper, who handled the case for the state, could not be reached for comment.

Jenkins, who dropped out of high school in the 10th grade, had a criminal record as a juvenile, attorney Fraser said. Jenkins' juvenile charges included burglary, carrying a concealed firearm and assault.