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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Roakes convicted of attempted murder
Jurors decided he planned his ex-girlfriend's death, leading to the first-degree conviction.
By JAMAL THALJI, Times Staff Writer
Published September 6, 2007
[Times photo: David Degner]
It took the jury of five men and one woman just 37 minutes to convict 26-year-old Robert Anthony Roakes of first-degree attempted murder and resisting an officer with violence. The verdict left him in tears.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Defense attorney Sarah Sultenfuss didn't deny that her client probably battered and terrorized his ex-girlfriend in some way Feb. 26. But did Robert Anthony Roakes set out to kill Misty Chapman, as the state said he did?
"Misty said he punched her. Misty said he choked her. Misty said he dragged her back to the van," Sultenfuss told the jury Wednesday. "Now from these facts can the state prove he intended to cause her death?
"It's ugly, but can the state prove it was premeditated murder?"
Actually, yes, the jury decided.
It took the jury of five men and one woman just 37 minutes to convict the 26-year-old Virginia man of first-degree attempted murder and resisting an officer with violence. The verdict left Roakes in tears.
Roakes and his new girlfriend are accused of luring his old girlfriend to a Beacon Woods pond, jumping her, beating her, then dragging her into a van. Authorities say a bloodied, half-naked Chapman - who had given birth to Roakes' son just four weeks earlier - escaped at a State Road 52 stoplight. Roakes drove off when a sheriff's deputy happened by, but was captured about an hour later.
No witnesses testified for the defense. All Roakes' attorney could do was poke holes in the accounts of state witnesses.
Chapman, 25, detailed her ordeal for jurors on Tuesday. Her sister testified that Roakes called and threatened her entire family after the victim escaped. A host of deputies testified Roakes admitted his guilt, threatened their lives and kicked one in the groin.
Then Wednesday morning Roakes' alleged accomplice, Nadine Scherer, took the stand.
Scherer told the jury that Roakes asked her if he couldn't finish off Chapman, could she do it for him? She said no. And Scherer, 26, who also faces a charge of first-degree attempted murder, told jurors that she did not make a deal in exchange for her testimony.
Assistant State Attorney Michael Kenny held up for the jury a handwritten map. The state said it was a map to a river in Chiefland, found at the scene of Roakes' arrest, detailing where he intended to dump Chapman's body. Roakes hoped the alligators would dispose of Chapman, the state said.
"That's what separates premeditated attempted murder from every other charge of attempted murder," the prosecutor told jurors. "It's the plan. It's the very center of a conscious decision, a premeditation to kill the victim."
Roakes' sentencing was set for Oct. 12. He faces up to 30 years in prison, or more if the state convinces Circuit Judge William Webb that Roakes qualifies for penalty-enhancing statutes. Roakes also faces a charge of failing to register as a sex offender.