A former youth offender convicted of third-degree murder in 2005 was sentenced to two years community control for violating the terms of his probation.
Richard Reynolds, now 24, was just 15 when he stole the keys to his mother’s PT Cruiser. In September 2004, Reynolds drove the car to Walmart on S.R. 50 and on the way back to his Elmore Drive home, he ran a red light and hit David Watts’ vehicle, killing him.
On Thursday, Reynolds was back in Hernando County Circuit Court for a violation of probation sentencing. Reynolds violated probation by failing to register as a felon in the multiple counties he’s lived in before being released from the Florida Department of Corrections in 2009.
Reynolds appeared nervous, taking deep breaths and swallowing them as his Bay County probation officer testified by phone that Reynolds moved around a lot after being released from prison. Richard Pelache recommended Reynolds be given community control and that GPS monitoring would make his supervision easier.
Reynolds’ attorney, Ray Shaw, also petitioned for Reynolds to stay out of prison, so he could work on paying back the more than $14,000 restitution mandated during his sentencing.
Sonny McCathran of the State Attorney’s office questioned if Reynolds was serious about paying back the victim’s family, especially since he still has more than $11,000 to pay them, and has skipped some of the court ordered $100 a month payments. McCathran asked about the five traffic citations the defendant had racked up since 2009 — reckless driving, failing to wear a seat belt and speeding — and stated that more than $1,000 in fines could have gone toward victim repayment.
Reynolds said that his family members paid his traffic fines so he could keep his license and drive to work.
McCathran also asked who paid for Reynolds to move to and from some 15 addresses since 2009, and brought into question his purchase of two beers at a Pensacola bar the night his car was stolen.
Reynolds spoke with police about the car, but failed to report those conversations to his probation officer, as well.
“I reported my speeding tickets, but my probation officer led me to believe it wasn’t a big deal if I wasn’t arrested,” Reynolds said.
McCathran later said he brought up the $6 beer purchase to show the defendant had “money available” and where his “mindset is.”
Shaw said Reynolds’ violation of probation was “unsophisticated,” and Judge Daniel Merritt Jr. ultimately decided to sentence Reynolds to two years of community control followed by six years probation. Merritt also found that Reynolds moved around a lot due to the death of his mother.
Merritt recognized that Reynolds’ original victim lost his life, but thought incarceration wasn’t “beneficial to society in this instance.”
Merritt also ordered Reynolds to make 15 speeches to middle or high school students at least once every two months — a condition of his original sentence.
Reynolds, a licensed cosmetologist, said he was making $28,000 annually at a Fort Lauderdale business owned by a family friend.