Sentence at 29: life in prison

By COLLEEN JENKINS, Times Staff Writer
Published October 18, 2007

TAMPA - Keisha Heath was in bed sleeping early on May 20 when a stranger shot her boyfriend after a fight outside the Empire Nightclub in Ybor City.

On Wednesday, minutes after a jury found the shooter guilty of first-degree murder, 29-year-old Heath begged a courtroom full of people to "wake up."

"We got to stop letting our anger take over and being impulsive," she said. "We gotta wake up. Our lives are worth so much more."

The message came too late for Onassis George. Hillsborough Circuit Judge Barbara Fleischer sentenced him to a mandatory life prison sentence with no chance of parole.

At 29, in addition to murder, George's record also includes arrests for the aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, a couple of kidnapping charges and selling cocaine.

"Senseless, senseless, senseless," the judge said. "Just a terrible waste of life. Yours is over too."

Howard "Skip" Williams, 28, died four days after the shooting.

A friend said Wednesday that Williams' May 20 visit to Empire was only his second. He didn't go clubbing often.

That night, punches flew. Bouncers kicked out a group of men. More fought on the sidewalk. Tampa police dispersed the crowd, but a couple of guys just wouldn't quit.

As Williams and a friend walked toward a parking lot one block south of the club, a man in a red shirt approached.

"What are you going to say now?" the man asked, before firing four shots. They hit Williams in the chest and hand.

Mounted Officer Sal Mazza chased George, knocked him down with his horse and held him between the animal's hooves until backup arrived.

On Wednesday, Williams' father, girlfriend, aunts, grandmother and friends filled the rows of benches behind prosecutors.

No one came for George.

"I don't know why you pulled the trigger," Kendrick Williams, 20, told him. "But it's done, it's over and he ain't coming back."