Copeland sentenced to life for 2011 shooting death of 15-year-old


Murder defendant Dontavious Copeland, 18, enters courtroom 3C of the Alachua County Criminal Justice Center in Gainesville for his sentencing on Tuesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 1:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 4:59 p.m.

Lushon Copeland pleaded with a judge Tuesday afternoon to have mercy on her son, Dontavious Copeland, when he sentenced him for the murder last year of Jearicka Mack.

“He has a child that he has never touched nor has he ever smelt her little toes,” she said, asking that he be sent to a facility that allows minors to visit.

Circuit Judge Mark W. Moseley listened, then sent the 18-year-old to prison for life with a mandatory sentence of 25 years. Copeland was found guilty of first-degree murder on Oct. 5.

Lushon Copeland cried loudly and rushed out of the courtroom.

“It’s a tragic case, but this kind of activity simply cannot be tolerated by our society, and the reasons are apparent. I don’t need to comment. There is a 15-year-old child that is dead,” Moseley said.

Jearicka was shot in May 2011 outside a birthday party at the Lion’s Club on North Main Terrace in Gainesville. The Gainesville Police Department said Jearicka was an innocent bystander outside the club after the party ended when fights broke out between rival gang members.

Her father, Jearick Mack, said on Tuesday he believed justice was served but that he is forever scarred by the loss of his daughter.

“It ain’t gonna never be right. That was my whole life right there,” he said.

Lushon Copeland told the judge she understood that her son should be punished, but she hoped to have a relationship with him.

Copeland dabbed his eyes briefly while his mother spoke.

She said she felt for the victim’s family, for her own family and for anyone who has been affected by the tragedy.

“We always want to be there for him, as any other family would want to be there for their loved ones,” she said.

Jearicka’s grandmother Mildred Fisher said it was beautiful that Copeland’s mother spoke in support of him.

“I am glad they supported him, and her (Copeland’s mother) outburst, that touched my heart. I just think, she loves him,” Fisher said.

Debbie Snyder, victim advocate for the State Attorney’s Office, read two letters to the judge, one from Mack’s mother and the other from her grandmother.

“Sometimes the feeling of losing my grandchild becomes so overwhelming, so oppressive that it literally takes my breath away,” Mack’s grandmother Sabrina Cook wrote.

Mack’s mother, Trenesha Thomas, wrote about heartbreak, listing the things about her daughter that she missed the most: the hot wings she used to cook, the way she danced, her infectious smile.

“She was truly just beginning to enjoy her teenage years,” she wrote.

Thomas said she had yet to see Copeland show remorse for her death.

“The “nothing to sob over’’ for him is something that wakes me up in tears out of my sleep because to me she was something, she was my child,” her letter said, referring to a comment Copeland made earlier to investigators about the shooting.

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