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Shooter gets 15 years in prison

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:17 PM

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Germaine Smiley sports a small scar just above her left eyebrow.

It was left behind by a .22 caliber bullet.

Against all odds, she survived her gunshot wound. The bullet broke into several pieces once it crashed against her skull.

"I remember it all the time," she said of the morning of May 9, 2010.

Smiley had mixed feelings about what she heard Friday morning. She sat and listened to the testimony from Tony Roberts, the man who shot her in the back after she came home from work.

Even though she begged for her life, Roberts chased her down, stood over her and fired that bullet at her head. He admitted to shooting Smiley in a crowded courtroom.

Roberts also mentioned his motive.

"I felt like she was destroying my family," said the 20-year-old.

* * * * *

Smiley was going to testify against Roberts' aunt, Sandra McKenzie, who had been charged in a battery and false imprisonment case. McKenzie also was charged with witness tampering. She would later be convicted.

The victim in those crimes was Smiley, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Detectives investigated whether McKenzie hired her nephew to snuff out the lead witness in her case. Roberts told at least two fellow jail inmates she did.

On Friday, he said he acted alone.

"She had no knowledge of my actions," Roberts said of his aunt.

Roberts was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 10 years of probation.

His guilty plea to first-degree attempted murder was made three days before he was scheduled to stand trial.

Had jurors convicted him, he would have faced anywhere from 25 years to life in prison.

"What he has to go through for someone else, it's not right," said Smiley as she sat in the courtroom. "But he did it and he has to pay for it."

Smiley told detectives right away who she thought was ultimately responsible for the shooting, deputies said. She thought McKenzie had it out for her.

* * * * *

Smiley said she wanted to see Roberts get a stiffer sentence, but above all, she wanted McKenzie to be charged, tried and sentenced to prison.

McKenzie was not charged.

Detectives wasted no time following that lead. They interviewed McKenzie, who gave them various stories about where she had been that morning, according to reports.

Ten months went by before an arrest was made. Roberts, who was sentenced to two years in jail following an arson conviction, started talking to his fellow inmates.

He told at least two of them McKenzie had paid him to do it. One of the inmates he said that to was wearing a wire, authorities said.

Jurors would have heard that recorded conversation, but it was laced with heavy doses of street slang, said Lewis.

The conversation also took place in the medical wing of the Hernando County Jail.

"The acoustics were terrible in there," Lewis said.

On the tape, the inmate asked Roberts, "Did they break a piece off for you?"

Lewis said the inmate was asking whether Roberts got paid.

Because there was so much street lingo, jurors might have had doubts about whether Roberts really meant what detectives thought he meant, Lewis said.

Sgt. Phil Lakin, who heads the sheriff's office's Major Case Unit, said he, Detective George Loydgren and others who worked the case were satisfied with the 15-year sentence for Roberts.

"We are very pleased to have worked in conjunction with the State Attorney's Office and Germaine Smiley to reach a plea agreement that was acceptable to the victim and provided her with much-needed closure on this tragic event that nearly took her life," Lakin said. "When we investigate these cases, we work to achieve both justice and closure for the victim."

* * * * *

Smiley spoke briefly to a reporter while inside the courtroom. She huddled with Lewis and Loydgren for several minutes and decided not to say anything more to the media afterward.

Lewis spoke on her behalf.

"It was a fantastic investigation," said Lewis. "(Detectives) took a very difficult case and did a great job. At the end of the day, it was a case with a lot of circumstantial evidence." (352) 544-5283

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