TAMPA — Once condemned to life in prison, 39-year-old Floyd LaFountain walked out of a Hillsborough County jail on Friday, tasting freedom for the first time in 22 years.
"I want to drink a milk shake and just maybe go to the beach," he said when asked about his plans.
LaFountain had been locked up since age 16 for his role in a robbery in which a cohort pulled a gun and shot a man.
Originally sentenced to life, LaFountain was resentenced this week to the time he has already served, the result of Supreme Court decisions which held it was unconstitutional to give juveniles life.
Just after 10 a.m., LaFountain, donning a new button-down shirt and slacks, strode through the heavy steel doors outside Orient Road Jail and stood before a throng of cameras and microphones.
"My heart still goes out to the victim's family," he said, echoing an apology he gave in court. "I'm truly sorry for what happened that day."
He thanked his lawyer, Jose Barreiro, and Abe Brown Ministries, the nonprofit organization that will help him reintegrate into society.
He has been ordered to serve 15 years of probation.
In 1994, LaFountain and two friends ran away from their Massachusetts hometown, stealing a car and driving to Florida. When they ran out of money, they decided to commit a robbery.
They broke into the home of 73-year-old Manuel Huerta in the Palmetto Beach neighborhood of Tampa. Huerta confronted the teens with a knife. One of LaFountain's companions, 16-year-old Kyle Moran, pointed a .22-caliber rifle at Huerta's face and pulled the trigger.
The boys were charged with murder. Michael DuPuis, then 15, testified against his friends in exchange for a 20-year sentence. Moran and LaFountain got life.
In recent years, the U.S. and Florida Supreme Courts have held that juveniles who commit serious crimes cannot be sentenced to life or a similarly long sentence without the opportunity to have their cases reviewed.
On Wednesday, prosecutors agreed LaFountain had served his time. A judge imposed a new sentence permitting his release.
With birds chirping in the morning sun outside the jail, LaFountain said he never thought he would see this day.
Did he think he deserved a second chance?
"At times, no," he said. "And at times, yes."
The crime, he said, seemed like a lifetime ago.
"I'm going to take my time, one day at a time, and learn all the little things," he said.
Pastor Wayne Tiggett of Abe Brown Ministries escorted LaFountain to a car.
From there, they drove to a re-entry center, where LaFountain would receive a health insurance card and sign up for Electronic Benefits Transfer, his lawyer said. After that, LaFountain visited a probation office before returning to Abe Brown Ministries in east Tampa.
The faith-based organization offers a transitional living program for released offenders. While in the program, LaFountain will live in a house with a group of roommates who have also been recently released from prison. He will try to find work as he learns to adapt to a world he has never known.
"He's tired of not doing anything in jail," Barreiro said. "He wants to go out there, he wants to start working. He wants to be an apprentice with an electrician.
"He has a lot of good ideas," the attorney said. "He has no bad ideas."
Contact Dan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.