An alleged drug dealer was found guilty Wednesday of the 2014 slaying of a rival dealer in Oneco.
Tavaris “40” Johnson was found guilty as charged of second-degree murder with a firearm in the death of Samuel Edwards, 29.
The verdict was announced at about 6 p.m. after a jury of six deliberated for three hours and came back into the courtroom several times to ask questions.
Johnson, 29, now faces up to life in prison. A sentencing hearing date has not yet been set.
“I’m elated that the jurors were able to see the evidence and witnesses supported what was presented,” lead homicide Detective Darryl Davis said afterward. “I feel Sam and his family deserved justice, even though it doesn’t bring him back.”
Davis inherited the case after another detective left the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office but was able to further the investigation that lead to Johnson being charged.
“Members of Manatee Homicide Investigative Unit will never stop working for families of the victims in our community,” Davis added.
The victim’s mother, Ethel Edwards, was not in the courtroom at the time the verdict was read, but she sat through the two days of testimony. On Tuesday, she told the Bradenton Herald that her son had just finished going to school to become a barber in the days leading up to his murder.
While she had known him to disappear at times, she did not know it was to sell drugs as was alleged at trial, but said he was also known for cutting people’s hair in the neighborhood. The soft-spoken mother said her son did not deserve to be executed.
On Wednesday morning, Assistant State Attorney Art Brown rested the state’s case against Johnson. The defense also rested after calling no witnesses of its own and Johnson deciding not to testify.
Melinda “Mami” Corona, who had been an uncooperative witness, briefly described for the jury the admission Johnson made about killing the victim when he robbed her moments later.
Corona, described by authorities as a known drug user, had been at a home across the street from where Edwards was shot dead. Although she admitted she was high that night, Corona recalled leaving the home and that she was walking down the street a couple blocks over when she heard shots fired.
Shortly thereafter, Corona said she was confronted by Johnson who pinned her to the ground, choked her and robbed her of the $140 she had.
As he was choking her, Johnson said “that he would do me like he did Sam,” Corona testified. On Tuesday, the jury heard other testimony about admissions made by Johnson.
Prosecutors said Johnson killed Edwards on June 23, 2014, because Edwards was selling drugs on turf belong to Johnson and another drug dealer. Johnson shot Edwards while Edwards was asleep inside a silver Chevrolet Impala under a carport in 5700 block of 11th Street East in Bradenton, according to witness testimony Tuesday.