Bradenton mom says she visited her daughter’s killer in jail to tell him she forgives him

The mother of 18-year-old Moriah Goode twice went to a jail to visit the man who shot and killed her daughter, she said during a sentencing hearing on Friday.

Janet Goode said she told him, “I love you and God loves you and Moriah loves you and I want you to know I forgive you and I need you to ask God for forgiveness.”

The tearful mother went on to testify, “He looked me straight in the eye and said he didn’t shoot my baby.”

Devon Lee Freeman, who later claimed he shot the victim in self-defense after being threatened by her boyfriend, offered an apology to Goode and her family on Friday. He thanked Janet Goode for her forgiveness, and said that the victim had appeared to him in a dream and said she forgave him.

But Circuit Judge Charles Sniffen ruled that while he was convinced that Freeman didn’t have “evil intent,” he had admitted to an intentional act that resulted in a death.

Freeman, 23, who pleaded no contest last month to a charge of manslaughter as part of a plea agreement, was sentenced to 13 and a half years in prison followed by 18 months of probation.

Moriah Goode’s boyfriend, Frank Brice, was driving her car on Nov. 6, 2016, through the east Bradenton neighborhood Freeman was preparing to move into. According to Freeman, Brice threatened him about moving in and pulled a gun. Freeman said he pulled his own gun in self-defense and fired several shots at the car, not knowing he had struck Goode.

Moriah Goode’s family, surrounded by friends, family and advocates sit in court as Devon Lee Freeman was sentenced to 13 and a half years followed by 18 months of probation. Tiffany Tompkins

Brice, who was acquitted of murder in 2015 in the unrelated fatal shooting of another teen, was not in the courtroom on Friday.

“I want you to remember one thing today. Mr. Freeman had total disregard for life that day,” Janet Goode told Sniffen when asking that he be given the maximum penalty.

Defense attorney Brett McIntosh had asked the judge to consider that Freeman is wheel-chair bound not out of pity, but because of what his experience will be in prison.

Ultimately, while Freeman had shown remorse and had no criminal history, Sniffen didn’t find it appropriate to sentence him below what sentencing guidelines call for. Sniffen did include the 18-month probation, however, to allow Freeman to transition more successfully back into the community when he is in his 30’s, he said.

Devon Lee Freeman was sentenced to 13 and a half years followed by 18 months of probation after he spoke on his own behalf Friday in court. Tiffany Tompkins

“I am convinced from reading these letters that you are sincere about your plans for your life,” Sniffen said to Freeman before wishing him good luck.

Outside the courthouse after the hearing, McIntosh said he would appeal the “Stand your ground’ immunity claim that was struck down by Sniffen last year.

“He acted in self-defense, there is no doubt about it,” McIntosh said.

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Jessica De Leon has been covering crime, courts and law enforcement for the Bradenton Herald since 2013. She has won numerous awards for her coverage including the Florida Press Club’s Lucy Morgan Award for In-Depth Reporting in 2016 for her coverage into the death of 11-year-old Janiya Thomas.