July 28th of 1999 in Pembroke Park, Florida
Lionel Tate was only 12 years old when he was charged with the 1st degree murder. The boy’s mother, Kathleen Grasset Tate, had been babysitting her friend’s 6 year old daughter, Tiffany Eunick. After dinner Kathleen decided to go upstairs and watch television, which left Lionel and Tiffany alone downstairs. The 2 kids were said to be close friends who often played together; Lionel regarded the girl as a little sister.
Kathleen later said that around 10 pm she’d heard Tiffany making very loud noises; instead of going downstairs to check on the child, she’d simply hollered for the girl to be quiet or she’d get a spanking. A short time later, Lionel told his mother that Tiffany wasn’t breathing and that she was cold to the touch; at this time 911 was called.
Originally police believed that the child must’ve died from some sort of accident, or even natural causes. Autopsy proved otherwise; Tiffany had been brutally murdered.
While the children had been left alone for 45 minutes, it was proven that little Tiffany’s attack had lasted less than 5 minutes. In that short time frame, this poor baby received more than 35 injuries. Experts said it was akin to being thrown off a 3 story building. She’d suffered nearly 40 bruises on her tiny body, a broken rib, bleeding kidneys, her brain was hemorrhaging in three separate places, she had a partially detached liver, a lacerated spleen, even a cracked skull. Lionel not only “wrestled” with Tiffany, but this precious baby girl was beaten, and thrown around like a rag doll. Now you know that this child was not silent throughout this torture session; she had to have been screaming, crying, begging for help the entire time. She even wetted herself! And all Lionel’s mother did was scream downstairs for her to shut up or she’d get a spanking; imagine how Tiffany must’ve felt when she heard that response.
Lionel said that he was only mimicking the professional wrestlers who he’d watched on television, but the 48 pound little girl was no match for 12 year old Lionel, who weighed 170 pounds. To cover for what he’d done, Lionel claimed that Tiffany must’ve accidentally hit her head on the table. He later admitted to throwing her into the staircase railing and a wall – by accident, of course; he’d merely been trying to throw her into the couch. Finally the boy admitted that he’d jumped on Tiffany from the staircase, and that he’d punched her between 35-40 times. But Lionel was adamant that he never meant to hurt her; he just didn’t know his own strength, and he was only playing.
It’s gotta be mentioned that this young man had a high IQ, but this young age he already had a lengthy history of criminal behavior which included bullying and physical violence, plus Lionel had been suspended from school more than a dozen times. That said, it’s very rare that a child this age acts out in a way such as this unless something is terribly wrong at home. Lionel’s mother had not always been deeply involved in his life, and he’d spend a good amount of time living with different relatives. The day after the murder, Lionel asked Tiffany’s mama if he could have all of his victim’s toys; the boy also asked if he could live with her, since Tiffany wasn’t gonna be coming home again. Was this his motive? Was Lionel trying to get away from an abusive or neglectful home life? Tiffany had an amazing Mommy, a wonderful life.
Lionel was charged as an adult with 1st degree murder. Considering his age, and the fact that Tiffany’s mom did not want her daughter’s killer to spend the rest of his life in prison, a plea deal was offered. If Lionel plead guilty to 2nd degree murder, this would allow the child to spend 3 years in a juvenile facility then he would be free. Since Lionel was underage, it was his mother’s choice. She did not feel her son intentionally killed Tiffany, therefore Lionel should not be charged at all. The deal was offered again and again, but Kathleen continued to turn it down.
After the boy was convicted of 1st degree murder, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Since Lionel’s competency was not tested before the trial, that plea bargain of 2nd degree murder was offered once again. Lionel was released in 2004, after served only 3 years in prison. After his release, the young man was to spend 1 year on house arrest, and 10 years probation. On May 23rd of 2005 Lionel was arrested again; this time for armed burglary with battery, armed robbery, and violation of probation. In May of ’06 Lionel was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
What do you think Lionel should’ve been charged with? Should he have been charged at all? Should he be free today? Do you think the Kathleen should’ve been charged, and if so, what with?
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