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After Michael Drejka’s conviction, parents of victim speak out: ‘We’re not done’

Markeis McGlockton’s parents, Michael McGlockton and Monica Moore-Robinson, said they’re looking toward Drejka’s October sentencing hearing.

In the courtroom, Michael McGlockton hung his head and prayed.

He asked for a conviction, for justice. Then he spoke to his son, Markeis McGlockton.

Father and son have been speaking all along, since the day last summer when one outlived the other. Every day before he leaves home, especially when he feels the grief start to well up inside of him, Michael McGlockton puts his hand on an urn filled with some of his son’s ashes and tells him justice will be served.

He feels calmer afterward, as if his son is talking back: “Pops, don’t worry about it.”

On that day in the courtroom, Michael McGlockton told his son he loved him. Then the jury entered and the clerk began to read aloud:

“The defendant is guilty of manslaughter as charged...”

THE VERDICT: Michael Drejka convicted of manslaughter in Markeis McGlockton’s death

CATCH UP HERE: Who’s who, timeline and links to complete coverage

In the grueling year since Markeis McGlockton, 28, was shot and killed in a convenience store parking lot, life for his father and mother, Monica Moore-Robinson, has been geared toward this moment. With the guilty verdict secured, they’re turning their focus to what’s next: maybe a foundation to further their son’s passions, maybe advocacy for victims of gun violence, maybe a wrongful death lawsuit against Michael Drejka.

Michael McGlockton the father of Markeis McGlockton holds a photograph of his son Markeis McGlockton Sr. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)

But the first stop is an Oct. 10 sentencing hearing in which a judge will decide how long Drejka will go to prison. His charge carries a penalty of up to 30 years.

“He killed my son. So for me, an eye for an eye. A life for a life,” said Michael McGlockton, 47. “But in this case, life is not on the table, so ... I think he should get the max.”

Speaking to the Tampa Bay Times a week after the verdict, McGlockton and Moore-Robinson, who are no longer together, recounted how their lives have changed since the July 19, 2018, shooting thrust them into an unlikely spotlight.

They’ve attended protests and pre-trial hearings, news conferences and interviews with journalists, quiet gatherings with friends. They’ve received hugs from strangers who recognize them around town.

It’s been a rough year, they both said, a year of firsts. The first birthday they didn’t spend at Chuck E. Cheese’s, Markeis’ favorite spot to celebrate with his children. The first Father’s Day that McGlockton didn’t call his son, a father of four, including 7-month-old Martavius, who was born after his death.

Moore-Robinson, 45, has dealt with depression, struggling some days to get out of bed in the morning. McGlockton threw himself into his job at a Clearwater water treatment plant, picking up overtime hours to keep his mind busy.

“The loss of a child is totally — I can’t even explain it," Moore-Robinson said. “I wouldn’t want anybody to go through it. It’s just something you never get over.”

An outpouring of statewide and national support and calls for action has dwindled as time passed. The shooting made national headlines after Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest Drejka, saying the shooting, in response to a hard shove by McGlockton, fell within Florida’s stand your ground law.

In the three weeks before prosecutors charged Drejka with manslaughter, politicians came through Clearwater on the midterm campaign trail, standing beside the family as TV cameras rolled.

Since then, McGlockton said he hasn’t heard a word from any of them, aside from U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

“I think that was just a pedestal for those guys to be the next governor or whoever they were trying to be at that time," McGlockton said.

Locally, the case stayed top of mind, giving McGlockton and Moore-Robinson the strength they needed to keep fighting, they said. So, too, did their son’s children, ages 6 down to baby Martavius. Moore-Robinson’s eyes lit up talking about them, a smile spreading across her tired face.

“There’s going to come a time when they’re going to start asking questions," McGlockton said. “At least when we do tell them they will know that the person that killed their dad is not walking around the streets.”

As the trial grew closer, Moore-Robinson dreaded the thought of having to relive all the details. McGlockton tried not to put too much pressure on himself, but he got nervous during jury selection, when word came that no black jurors made it onto the panel.

They sat in the gallery almost the entire time. That included hours of testimony from expert witnesses opining on the effects of MDMA, better known as ecstasy, discovered in Markeis McGlockton’s system during the autopsy. McGlockton said he knew his son smoked marijuana sometimes. But he had no idea about the ecstasy.

Still, he said, it was tough to watch the defense expert talk about how the drug may have impacted his son’s actions that day when McGlockton thought his son did what any man would have to protect his family.

“What made me discouraged was just listening to the defense portray my son to be a lot of things that he wasn’t," McGlockton said.

The parents spent jury deliberations in the courthouse hallway with friends, family and their attorney, Michele Rayner-Goolsby. About 10:30 p.m., 6½ hours after the jury left for deliberations, a bailiff poked his head out of the door and said there was a verdict. McGlockton and Moore-Robinson rushed inside. They said their prayers.

As the clerk read the verdict, Moore-Robinson sat dazed, wondering if she had heard correctly. McGlockton felt hands squeezing his shoulders and back. He watched as bailiffs took Drejka from the courtroom.

They smiled and hugged and took photos. They appeared once again in front of a line of TV cameras, McGlockton saying his family had finally found some semblance of peace. Later, at home with his son’s ashes, McGlockton poured himself a Hennessey on the rocks.

The verdict marked a step forward, they said, but by no means an end.

“We still got more steps," McGlockton said. "We’re not done.”