Veronica Polite never saw the man who beat her to death with what might have been a machete before lighting her body on fire.
The 50-year-old legally-blind woman’s nephew heard her talking to her killer, Dakota Jibson, just before midnight on April 1, 2018, outside their home in the City Walk apartment complex in Bradenton. Jibson had given two acquaintances a ride to an apartment there, and they both found Jibson flirting with the victim when they came back out.
Polite got into the front passenger seat of Jibson’s car and was never seen again by her family.
After reaching a plea deal with prosecutors, Jibson on Wednesday was sentenced to 60 years in prison for killing Polite — a punishment that disappointed and angered the victim’s family. He would have been sentenced to life or possibly the death penalty, if he had been convicted on the original charge of first-degree murder.
“The state attorney’s office didn’t do their job,” Polite’s cousin Twendolyn Robinson said outside the courthouse. “That’s not justice. You don’t plea out first-degree murder.”
The night of the murder, Jibson dropped off his two friends, then he and Polite drove to a wooded area near the 4600 block of 18th Street East in Bradenton to smoke crack cocaine. Some sort of argument ensured, although why remains unclear, according to prosecutors and investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
What followed was a brutal and deadly beating. Jibson hit Polite over the the head six times with is believed to be a machete. It broke through her skull, piercing her brain and killing her. Jibson then set her body on fire before taking off in his car.
Detectives say Jibson eventually confessed to killing Polite, after they found evidence of a large amount of blood in his car. He initially claimed he had her alone on the dirt road, according to detectives.
The victim’s family did not agree to Jibson being given any sentence short of life in prison, and they made that known to Circuit Judge Lon Arend, before he handed down the 60-year sentence.
“He didn’t have to kill her,” said Polite’s sister Yvette Peters. “She couldn’t even see. All he had to do was drop her back off.”
Peters sobbed and struggled to speak, a victim’s advocate coming to her side to provide comfort. She could not find justice in her sister’s killer getting 60 years in prison rather than life, she explained. While she knew a life sentence wouldn’t her sister back, knowing her sister wouldn’t have justice would leave a big hole in her heart, she said.
“I was her rock and she was my rock,” Peters said. “ She helped me when I was supposed to be helping her. ... I needed her so bad. I needed her so bad even though she couldn’t see. ... She was my shoulder. She was something I could lean on.”
Assistant State Attorney Suzanne O’Donnell acknowledged that the victim’s family did not agree with the deal reached between the state attorney’s office and O’Donnell’s attorney, David Little. She told Judge Arend that no prison sentence could ever bring the victim back.
“There’s clear pain that you are suffering and I can see the pain that you shared with me and I appreciate you taking the time to share that,” Arend said. “I think it’s important for you to know, that you don’t have to agree to the sentence the state has agreed to with the defense today. They have their process by which they agree to whatever sentence they want to and I trust that they do that in a logical and methodical way to do what they think is best for the case. But I applaud you for not agreeing to it.”
Jibson never made any sort of statement during the hearing but his defense called one witness, his daughter’s mother, who made an emotional plea for leniency, claiming Jibson was a good man.
Outside the family vented about how unhappy they were with the case’s outcome. They said they intend to take legal action against the state attorney’s office. Jibson had initially been offered a 40-year sentence, they claimed, which they had also refused to agreed to.