Man found guilty for murder, firearm charges
BONIFAY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A jury found a Holmes County man guilty of murder and firearm charges Wednesday, according to the State Attorney Office.
In 2021, Latorish Gardner of Marianna was arrested for a shooting incident off Interstate 10 at the Ponce De Leon rest area. One victim was pronounced dead another was injured.
During testimony, Mariah Maps said she was visiting Gardner, her former boyfriend, to pick up their three daughters for visitation. Her then-boyfriend Thompson accompanied her to give her a ride.
Maps told the jury an argument started in the parking lot between Maps and Gardner, and Thompson tried to de-escalate the situation. When the two tried to leave, the argument resumed.
Thompson tried to talk to Gardner again, and Gardner pulled out a pistol and shot him once in the chest, killing him almost instantly.
The State Attorney’s Office says Gardner waived the right to a pre-sentencing investigation, so they moved forward with sentencing immediately after the trial.
Maps, along with other witnesses, testified she ran while Gardner chased after and fired half a dozen rounds at her.
She then said she tried to hide in a nearby car. The owner of the car, James Lancaster, testified he saw Gardner chasing Maps, telling her he was going to kill her before she tried to crawl into the back seat of his car.
He told the jury he grabbed a gun from his car to protect Maps and pointed it at Gardner, who was reportedly waving his gun around.
“He fired over my shoulder and through the window and hit her,” Lancaster testified. “As soon as he had shot, he said, ‘It’s over, I’m done,’ and he turned and walked away.”
Gardner was later found and arrested in Marianna, and the murder weapon was never recovered.
“A shooting like this in a public area is the type of crime that one usually thinks of happening in other places, and to have such senseless violence happen in our community is unfathomable,” Prosecutor Ben Keown said. “A crime like this defendant committed sends shockwaves not only through the Holmes County community but also throughout the lives of every person who was at the Ponce De Leon rest area that day.”
It took the jury 37 minutes to deliberate before finding Gardner guilty.
Judge Russell Roberts sentenced Gardner to serve two life sentences for second-degree murder with a firearm and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, and 15 years for shooting into an occupied vehicle, and that they be served consecutively.
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