BRADENTON — The family of a homeless man who was violently beaten to death last year watched a teenage gang member charged with his murder get sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday afternoon.
Luis A. Rincon, 18, accepted a plea deal offered by Assistant State Attorney Art Brown for a second-degree murder charge.
A very soft-spoken Rincon told the court Friday he was guilty of beating Daniel Case, 59, a homeless Vietnam veteran, who was found behind Griggs Plumbing at 12th Avenue West and 14th Street, where he normally stayed, on Feb. 23, 2009, according to a Bradenton Police Department arrest report.
“I would like to say I’m sorry to the parents of Mr. Case,” Rincon said in court just before getting fingerprinted and led away in shackles. “I pray to God, (Case) is up there. If you’re up there, I’m sorry.”
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Rincon and 19-year-old Robert Ramirez, both documented members of SUR-13, according to police, bludgeoned Case to death. Ramirez reportedly used an aluminum baseball bat and Rincon swung a golf club at Case until in broke into three pieces, according to reports.
Police found the bat and club with Case’s blood on them nearby inside a hollow tree, according to reports. Ramirez’s DNA was found on the bat; Rincon’s was not on the golf club because he used his shirt sleeves to cover his hands as he clutched the handle, according to police.
During interviews, Detective Greg Price was told the teens planned to burglarize a nearby tire shop. They brought the golf club and bat to break out the windows and didn’t intend to kill Case, according to reports.
However, Rincon reportedly told Ramirez they had to take care of the guy and knock the guy out. Case never said anything to the teens, according to reports.
“I want to speak to the boy,” Case’s mother, Rachel Case, said in court Friday, looking over at Rincon. “The only way he is going to be forgiven is if he gets down on his knees and begs for forgiveness from God. If he does that, then I know I can forgive him, too.
“It breaks my heart to see such a young man be put away for so long.”
This was Rincon’s first felony charge. His family, including his child’s mother, his mother and aunt, sobbed as they exited the courtroom with his attorney, Layon Robinson.
Rincon had until 4 p.m. Friday to accept the deal. His trial was slated to begin next week.
Had he proceeded with a trial, he could have faced life in prison, according to Circuit Court Judge Debra Riva.
Ramirez, who is represented by Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer, has yet to be tried.
Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.