BROOKSVILLE – Michael Pfeifer’s 7-year-old son believes his father died in a car crash nearly three years ago. The truth is too sad and too horrific for a child to understand, said Pfeifer’s mother, Deborah Pfeifer.
“I just can’t imagine why anybody would just decide to pick up and go to someone’s house and steal things that were really nothing, a television, an Xbox,” Deborah Pfiefer said. “I feel that the death was senseless, it wasn’t called for.”
Nicholas Trammell cries and looks to his family after learning he will spend the rest of his life in prison. WENDY JOAN BIDDLECOMBE/STAFF
Pfeifer, as well as other members of her family, testified Monday afternoon during the sentencing hearing for Richard Denard Harris, Nicholas Trammell and Robert Willoughby. The three men had previously entered guilty pleas for breaking into Pfeifer’s home on Aug. 16, 2011 to steal drugs, money and valuables, according to court records. Each carried loaded guns into the Masaryktown home at 174 Grand Ave., and the invasion turned deadly when Pfeifer was shot in the leg and bled to death before the paramedics arrived.
After two hours of testimony from Pfeifer’s family, as well as the defendants and their families, Judge Stephen Toner sentenced Harris, 27, and Trammell, 23, to life in prison on charges of second-degree murder, home invasion robbery while armed and burglary of a dwelling while armed.
Harris was also sentenced on drug charges.
Willoughby, 26, who previously gave his account of the deadly home-invasion robbery to Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, and agreed to testify against his co-defendants if the case were to go to trial, was sentenced to 30 years for the murder charge. He is required to serve 25 years minimum.
According to Willoughby’s account, Harris asked him if he knew the “white boy” who sold drugs and drove a Mercedes-Benz, and said he wanted to rob him.
Willoughby knew Harris was talking about Pfeifer, whom he was acquainted with through his son’s mother, Megan Rae Glass.
When Pfeifer called Glass, inviting her over to his house, she tipped off Willoughby, who told Harris. Harris told Willoughby and Trammell, who lived with his sister, who was dating Willoughby, to “get ready.”
Armed with an AK-47, 12 gauge shotgun and 9 mm handgun, they entered the back of Pfeifer’s residence.
The men ordered Pfeifer, 27, and a family friend visiting from Ireland, Cliff Kearney, down on the ground. According to Harris, Pfeifer lunged for his AK-47, which discharged one time. According to testimony, Trammell fired two rounds from a 12 gauge shotgun, with one hitting the floor and the other hitting Pfeifer’s thigh.
The men fled with valuables, including Pfeifer’s cell phone, which prevented Kearney from calling 911.
A bloody band-aid found on Pfeifer’s shoe matched Harris’ DNA, records show.
Kearney, who is a distant relative of Pfeifer’s, said during the hearing he was visiting his newly-found Florida family, and the men had decided to stay in that night and “behave” themselves.
When the men entered the home through a back door the evening turned into a “real life Stephen King novel,” Kearney said. “I had to try to stop the bleeding, I had to stay with my boy as he clutched to life … If you would have gone to him and asked him for any of the things you desired and ten times more he would have given them to you,” Kearney said.
“He begged for my life, before you killed him, do you remember that?” Kearney asked, looking at the defendants.
Pfeifer’s family said their family has continued to suffer emotionally and physically since their son’s murder. They can’t afford to bury their son, and his urn sits in their home, Deborah Pfeifer said. Pfeifer’s son talks to his father’s remains, and watches videos to remember Pfeifer’s voice.
The defendants’ families recalled Harris, Trammell and Willoughby as good kids they never dreamed would have been capable of the crime.
Raymond Boschen, said his grandson, Trammell was a “happy, loving, caring little boy” he thought would grow up to be a professional athlete. Boschen said he believed Trammell only went to the home that night to “live up to other people’s expectations,” and said the events were out of character because Trammell’s mother was murdered when he was 13.
Pauline Harris, Harris’ stepmother, said Harris grew up as a polite kid who respected others. She said she worked as a clerk at the sheriff’s office for nearly 30 years, and taught Harris to respect law enforcement as well. Harris’ family pleaded to Toner for the hope Harris could be reunited with his 7-year-old daughter one day.
Willoughby’s family described him as religious, and a hard worker. He has a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, and has been taking college courses in the Department of Corrections.
Each of the defendants apologized to Pfeifer’s family, and asked them and Toner for mercy.
Glass, who told the men where Pfeifer lived and that he would be home, was convicted of principal to home invasion robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2013.