TAMPA — Hillsborough prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Billy Adams III, the Tampa rapper accused of shooting a pregnant woman in January, three days after his acquittal in an unrelated double-murder case.
The office of Hillsborough State Attorney Suzy Lopez filed a written notice Friday that they will pursue capital punishment for the killings of 22-year-old Alana Sims and her unborn child.
Sims was found Jan. 30, lying beside the SUV she’d been driving in the 10700 block of Pictorial Park Drive in New Tampa. She’d been shot in her head. Her toddler son was found unharmed and sleeping in a car seat inside the vehicle.
Adams, 25, was arrested nine days later. Court and police records indicate that he knew Sims, but no longer wanted her in his life. It is unclear if he was the father of her unborn child.
The state’s death penalty notice lists several aggravating factors that prosecutors intend to prove to qualify death as an appropriate punishment. They include that there were multiple killings and that they were committed in a “cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification.”
In the case of Sims’ unborn child, the state also listed as an aggravating factor that the victim “was a person less than 12 years of age.”
The notice also alleges that Adams is a criminal gang member. In pretrial litigation in his previous case, prosecutors tried to argue that Adams is affiliated with the Crips street gang.
But judges were repeatedly unconvinced that Adams has any ties to a gang. Arguments and testimony about gang activity were barred from being mentioned to the jury in his trial.
Adams, a hip-hop artist who performs as Ace NH, was found not guilty Jan. 27 in the 2020 shooting deaths of Trevon Albury and Daniel Thompson. They were shot during a late-night music session in a Lutz recording studio.
In his trial, Adams took the witness stand and admitted to a jury that he shot both men, but claimed he did so in self-defense after he overheard them discuss robbing the studio’s owner. Adams pulled his own gun, he said, when he saw Albury point a pistol at the man from behind.
Albury was shot in the back of his head. Immediately after the first gunshot, Adams testified, Thompson got up from his seat and tried to grab Adams’ gun. Thompson was then shot twice in his face.
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Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella, after the jury’s not guilty verdict, called the case “at the very least a close call,” and urged Adams to stay out of trouble.
Sims was killed three days later.
Public defenders representing Adams last week renewed a request for a judge to order law enforcement and court officials and prosecutors to not release further information about the case.
They’ve cited a flurry of news stories that followed his second arrest, which were based on information released by police and filed in court. Some reports, the defense said, contained information that was speculative and inaccurate. The lawyers expressed concern about preserving Adams’ right to a fair trial.
A judge heard arguments about their request Monday morning, but did not immediately rule.
Hillsborough prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty in at least nine cases, which include a total of 12 defendants. When Lopez was appointed in August by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the office had five pending death penalty cases.
Since then, prosecutors have secured death sentences against Steven Lorenzo, who admitted to the sexual torture murders of two men, and Tyrone Johnson, who was convicted of killing his girlfriend and her 10-year-old son.
They also sought the death penalty against Matthew Terry, who was convicted in November of killing his girlfriend, Kay Baker. But a jury in Terry’s case found that the case’s aggravating factors were not sufficient to warrant a death sentence. Terry was sentenced to life in prison.
The pursuit of capital punishment in Adams’ case comes as the state Legislature considers lowering the threshold at which juries can recommend the death penalty. Current state law requires juries to be unanimous in such cases, but Gov. Ron DeSantis and some lawmakers have said they think a vote of 8-4 should be the minimum requirement.