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Manatee man guilty of killing woman

BRADENTON — A jury found a Manatee man guilty Friday night of shooting a 22-year-old woman in the head and dumping her body off a rural East Manatee road.

A judge sentenced Jose Luis Marrero, 34, to life in prison for first-degree murder and robbery after a jury found him guilty on both counts after four hours of deliberation.

Marrero shot Lauren Whitney Lichon, of Sarasota, in the chest in her car, and as she got out of the vehicle with one gunshot wound, he fired into her head, killing her. A mosquito control worker found Lichon’s body off Rye Wilderness Road on Feb. 5, 2009.

Marrero showed no emotion as he learned his fate, while his family and the Lichon family wept at the verdict.

Lichon’s brother, Eric, said his sister was beloved by many.

“She was much loved and justice was served,” he said.

Lichon had driven Marrero, and Marrero’s 14-year-old nephew, to Rye Road to purchase DVDs and he shot her in a robbery. The boy testified at trial he witnessed the shooting from the backseat of the vehicle.

The verdict came after a week-long trial in which the teen’s credibility became the heart of the case. Marrero’s attorney, Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer, attacked the boy’s credibility all week, questioning why the boy lied to detectives for months after the shooting, claiming he and his uncle had nothing to do with the crime.

“They want you to convict a man on a homicide charge based on the testimony of an admitted liar,” Schlemmer said.

The boy had ample reason not to implicate his uncle because he feared Marrero would take his life, argued Assistant State Attorney Art Brown during closing arguments. Brown called on the jury to find Marrero guilty.

“His actions deserve that,” Brown said.

Against the advice of his public defender, Marrero made the rare move of demanding his murder trial begin just four months after his arrest.

Marrero refused to waive his right to a speedy trial even after Schlemmer told Circuit Judge Diana Moreland prior to the trial that she had not had time to fully investigate possible DNA evidence, as well as evidence that a different person might have shot Lichon.

Florida law states prosecutors must present evidence at trial within 175 days of a suspect’s arrest on a felony charge, unless that person agrees to waive speedy trial.

“When the state’s case comes to a whole bunch of lies that I can prove wrong, then I am ready,” Marrero responded to Moreland when she questioned him about his decision to move forward against advice of his attorney.