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Former boyfriend guilty of killing; life sentence is mandatory

By GRAHAM BRINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


TAMPA -- A jury took about two hours Wednesday to convict Ricky R. Vann of first-degree murder for ambushing his estranged girlfriend and shooting her in the head.

Vann, 41, showed little emotion when the clerk read the verdict, which comes with a mandatory life sentence. Gwendolyn Faye Lucas' friends and family, who had watched three days of testimony, hugged and wiped away tears.

"He killed my child for nothing," said Lucas' mother, Clara Burnett.

Authorities say Vann was in a slowly brewing rage after his stormy relationship with Lucas ended late in 1998. Vann talked an acquaintance who was installing tile for Lucas into letting him into the home on Cord Street in Highland Pines about 10 a.m. Nov. 30. Vann said all he wanted to do was talk with her, the tile installer testified.

Once inside, Vann slipped into the back yard and hid near the door. When Lucas, 39, walked outside to talk to the tile installer, Vann jumped out, gun in hand.

Vann waved away the worker, who left the home. Less than a minute later, a shot rang out and Lucas was seen climbing her backyard fence. She jumped over and ran down the street. Another witness heard at least one more shot, police reports say. Lucas was found shot in the head half a block from her home.

Prosecutor Ada Carmona called the killing a planned execution, in which Lucas was shown no mercy. All the evidence pointed to Vann, she said. The abusive relationship. The blood on Vann's shirt. Witness statements placing Vann in the area at the time of the shooting. The similar bullet casings in the back yard and near the site of the killing.

"(He) had a premediated desire to kill in his heart and his head," she told the jurors.

Vann's attorney, assistant public defender Gerod Hooper, argued that the man retiling Lucas' floors had just as much opportunity to kill her. Hooper suggested the tile man testified against Vann to cover his own tracks.

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