Teen convicted of murder in Jearicka Mack's fatal shooting


Jearick Mack sobs over a photo of his slain daughter Jearicka Mack, 15, as he and Jearicka's mother Trenesha Thomas, 36, leave the Alachua County Criminal Courthouse following a first degree murder conviction of Jearicka's killer Dontavious Copeland on Friday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 8:19 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 5, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.

In the courtroom Friday, during closing arguments in Dontavious Copeland's murder trial, a state prosecutor played an audio clip.

It was an interview between a Gainesville Police Department detective and Copeland, after the shooting death of Jearicka Mack, 15, back in May 2011. The detective asked Copeland about the girl's death.

"Ain't nothing to sob over or nothing like that," Copeland responded.

The audio of Copeland's 17-year-old voice was played four times. It was the only time Copeland, now 18, would speak.

A jury on Friday afternoon found Copeland guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jearicka after deliberating for a little more than an hour. State prosecutors Adam Urra and Christopher Elsey called witnesses who said they saw Copeland with the gun, and experts who testified on ballistics and forensic evidence in the case. Copeland shot Jearicka outside the University Lions Club on North Main Terrace, prosecutors said, after a rowdy birthday party.

The defense argued there were too many people and too many things going on at once for anyone to definitively say Copeland pulled the trigger. The trial lasted five days, with Copeland's sentencing now set for next Thursday.

One witness, called by the prosecution, said she saw Copeland wave his gun around during the party. She was a friend of Jearicka, who was nicknamed Pooh.

She said a song came on called Rep Your Hood and some gang members in the room got excited and threw up gang signs.

The energy spilled into the parking lot, and three fights broke out. The witness said she lost Jearicka in the commotion and ran toward one of the fights. Then, she heard a single gunshot.

"I said, 'Oh, I gotta find Pooh. We gotta go.'"

A group of men, including Copeland, ran by her. One of them said, "Duke just shot Pooh...!" in a panicked voice, the witness said.

The bullet punctured one of Jearicka's lungs, prosecutors said. There was a trail of blood from where she was shot to where she ended up, on the pavement.

One witness testified he heard the gunshot and held Jearicka until she lost consciousness. He said she couldn't speak -- that she made a gurgling sound.

Before the verdict was read, Copeland walked into the courtroom without a tie on, in a white button-up shirt and khakis.

Moments after, he smiled, and his family walked out of the courtroom.

Jearicka's family members bowed their heads and hugged. On his way out of the courthouse, Jearicka's father Jearick stared at a photo of his daughter, his eyes red. He fought for breath.

"My baby can rest now, but we still hurt," Jearick Mack said. "We're at ease right now, but we still hurt."

Mack said he felt bad for Copeland's family.

"Losing a child, it's not like losing a mom or dad or cousin or sister. You lose your own, it means more to you than you expect it to," he said. "By them losing their son to the prison system, I know what that feels like."

Mack said he's seen his share of violence and he stressed the importance of taking care of children in the community,

"We need to do something," he said. "These children are falling by the wayside."

Before they went into the courtroom, Jearicka's family got in a circle and prayed, and they leaned on each other on the way out.

"The wounds may heal, but the scars are still there," Jearicka's father said. "No matter what, the scars are always there."

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