Jermaine Nixon slipped out of the courtroom quickly, the echoes of his mother’s wailing over the 14-year prison sentence he received Friday still lingering in the hallway.
A jury two months ago convicted Nixon, now 18, of the 2010 hit-and-run crash in Riviera Beach that killed pedestrian Kathryn Veroxie. Veroxie, 21, died March 19, 2010, after Nixon, then 15, plowed into her with a stolen car while he was speeding away from police. Both Nixon and Veroxie were from Riviera Beach.
Nixon’s mother, Cherron Randolph, on Friday pleaded to Judge Barry Cohen for leniency, apologizing to Veroxie’s family before she told the judge that her son was just a kid. Veroxie’s aunt, Marianne Zebedee, listened quietly, nodding as Randolph asked her to accept her apology on behalf of Nixon, who chose not to speak before Cohen sentence him.
Earlier, Zebedee dabbed at tears as she chronicled for Cohen the last seven years she spent with her niece, who came to live with her after her mother died and stayed after her father died a year later.
Veroxie, a Palm Beach State College student who worked at Publix, had moved out on her own shortly before her death. On the day she was killed — the seventh anniversary of her mother’s death — the young woman had made plans to meet with Zebedee, who unbeknown to her was prepared to present her with a $20,000 inheritance check to buy herself a car.
“I wish there was a different way to do this mess that was caused by an arrogant, apathetic person who did such an unfathomable thing,” Zebedee said of Nixon, later referencing an incident where she said the teen smirked at the family and spit on the ground in front of them in his first court hearing. “I frequently think of his parents and their pain for his stupidity.”
According to police, Nixon had stolen a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu and was speeding away on Blue Heron Boulevard at up to 95 miles per hour. They had been chasing him, but broke off the chase because of the danger. Around midnight Nixon veered onto the sidewalk near Garden Road and into Veroxie before crashing and fleeing on foot, police said. He was captured a short while later.
Cohen rejected a request from Nixon’s defense attorney to give less than the 12-year minimum based on sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors had offered Nixon an 8-year deal with four years of probation earlier this year, but rescinded the offer after six months. Prosecutor Laura Burkhart Laurie said Nixon’s family was split as to whether he should accept the agreement and Veroxie’s family had soured on the idea because they thought Nixon’s family was playing games with the system.
Cohen permanently revoked the opportunity of a driver’s license for Nixon, who had never been issued a license at the time of the crash.
“A young woman has lost her life,” Cohen said. “That needs to be taken seriously.”
Nixon’s attorney, Jack Fleishman, asked for a 6-year sentence, using the 16-year prison sentence of convicted Wellington polo mogul John Goodman for DUI manslaughter and the 6-year sentence for 19-year-old Beruch Zegeye last year in arguing that a 21-year sentence was much to harsh in a case he said should have been tried in juvenile court. Nixon, charged as an adult, faced up to 80 years in prison, based on convictions for vehicular homicide, fleeing and eluding and grand theft charges.
Though Cohen’s sentence was about midway between the requests from Laurie and Fleishman, it was way too harsh for Nixon’s mother, who sobbed so uncontrollably after Cohen issued his sentence, she had to be led from the courtroom.
“No, that’s my baby,” Randolph sobbed. “No he’s just a kid. If they want somebody they can just take me.”