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Teenager gets life for killing boyfriend's ex

Laisha Landrum, 18, stood before the parents of Emily Clemons on Monday and apologized for killing their daughter. In June 2004, Landrum and a teenage boy bludgeoned Clemons to death with a hammer, kitchen pots and a boom-box, hitting her at least 34 times and using the hammer's claw on her face.

"If I could, I would bring her back," a tearful Landrum told the parents at her sentencing hearing Monday. "But I can't, and I apologize."

It was the first sign of remorse Emily Clemons' father had seen, and he wasn't convinced.

"Any tears shed by the defendant have been crocodile tears," Brett Clemons told Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett.

Moments later, Landrum, facing life in prison, sprang from her seat to defend her composure during the January trial, in which she was convicted of second-degree murder and evidence tampering.

"Sir, I'm trying to be strong for my family," Landrum said, addressing Padgett.

Without a response, Padgett gave Landrum the same life sentence that her boyfriend, Rocky Almestica Jr., got in January 2005.

Clemons was Almestica's ex-girlfriend. Landrum gave birth to his daughter and lived with him. Clemons was accused of seeing Almestica behind Landrum's back.

"Listen, b----. You stay away from my man, or I'll kill you," Landrum said on Clemons' voice mail before the murder, Brett Clemons told the judge.

Monday, he told the judge that he had warned his daughter to stay away from Landrum. But his worst fear came true.

Landrum and Almestica, then 16, lured Clemons to the Amaretto Apartments on N 22nd Street the night of June 9, 2004, investigators said. There, the two pummeled Clemons, wrapped her in a blanket and tossed her in a garbage bin.

Neighbors called 911 when they heard Clemons kicking and moaning from inside the bin. She was barely alive when she was discovered but died at a hospital.

"This was a crime perpetrated by vicious and hateful persons," Brett Clemons said, after he described the grisly wounds inflicted upon his daughter.

Landrum's mother, Kchelle Landrum, stood at that same lectern to plead for mercy, showing the judge photos of Laisha Landrum as a sweet-faced middle schooler.

"Although I look at my daughter in that orange uniform there, this is the child that I raised," Kchelle Landrum said. She also showed the judge a photo of Landrum and Almestica's 2-year-old daughter, who has been apart from her mother since she was 4 months old.

"I can't tell you what to do, but I can ask you to be soft and compassionate for my granddaughter," Kchelle Landrum said. Landrum's father and grandmother also begged the judge to allow her a chance to be a mother.

"Emily Clemons is never going to have a child," prosecutor Donna Hanes said. "Mr. and Mrs. Clemons are never going to have a granddaughter."

Landrum's attorney, Brian Gonzalez, asked the judge to spare Landrum a life sentence not because of the baby, but because she is still young enough to turn her own life around.

Gonzalez told Padgett that when she was pregnant, Landrum worked at Wendy's. He said her run-ins with the law had been minimal, and that she had earned her high school diploma by passing the GED test.

"Laisha Landrum is not a throw-away," Gonzalez said.

He also told the judge that while she was involved in the murder, Landrum did not deliver the fatal blows that killed Clemons.

"Because two people are found guilty of the same crime, they need not be sentenced to the same," Gonzalez said.

But Padgett put Landrum behind bars for the rest of her natural life, with no parole.

Both the Landrum and Clemons families left the courtroom without commenting on the sentencing.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at (813) 226-3354 or at azayas@sppimes.com.

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