FORT WALTON BEACH — On April 26, 2011, David Pitcock presented himself in court for the first time to speak on behalf of his family at a sentencing hearing for Tyree Washington, one of four youths responsible for the shooting death of his son, Christopher.

Nearly eight years later, Pitcock, clearly aged by a battle for justice, was obliged to take the witness stand Tuesday to speak at yet another sentencing hearing.

There have now been nearly 20.

Again he found himself looking across the courtroom at Tyree Washington who, ironically, was the last of the three involved in the Pitcock murder who received a life sentence (a fourth received 15 years) to get a resentencing hearing.

Suffering from a myriad of mental and physical ailments that he told the court had rendered him disabled to work or lead a normal life, Pitcock remained as defiant as ever and steadfast in his belief that the men that killed his son should never see freedom.

“My son is in the ground. You’ve got a life in prison,” Pitcock told Washington. “And I’m in prison myself, mentally.”

 

 

New hearings were ordered for Washington, Timothy Chavers and Kyle Walling after the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that juveniles cannot be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Later the same year, Florida lawmakers structured guidelines moving forward through which juveniles charged with murder would be sentenced.

Washington, an acquaintance of schoolmate Chris Pitcock, was 16 on March 4, 2010, when he called Pitcock to arrange to buy a significant amount of marijuana from him. But prosecutors said Washington had previously plotted with three others to pull a gun on Pitcock and steal his pot.

Chavers, who fatally shot and killed 17-year-old Pitcock has already been re-sentenced to life. After hearing testimony throughout the day Tuesday, Okaloosa County Circuit Judge William Stone announced he would pass sentence on Washington and Walling, at a later date.

Jeremy Keich, Washington's attorney, has requested a sentence to “a term of years” that would reflect evidence presented Tuesday which he argued indicated his client, now in his mid-20s, had little control over his actions as a 16-year-old.

Keich called Washington’s family members to provide testimony that painted a clear picture of just how dysfunctional Washington’s life was as a child.

He never knew his father and his mother physically and mentally abused him and kicked him out of the house when he was 12, according to the family's testimony. He was drinking and smoking pot before age 10, and by the time he was a teenager was experimenting with most drugs available on the street.

Expert testimony from witnesses in the field of psychology and pharmacology were also called by Keitch. Evidence was submitted that Washington suffered as a child and young teen with ADHD and for many years with undiagnosed diabetes.

He battled through his teens with obesity and a host of mental disorders, include those which made him more likely to defy authority, psychologist Dr. Jethro Toomer testified.

“He was a perfect storm, if you will, of someone who will be impaired,” Toomer said.

The impairment, Keitch argued, prevented Washington from making clear, coherent decisions on the day Christopher Pitcock was killed.

Keitch also called a witness with a long history of work within Florida’s Department of Corrections. Ron McAndrew testified that he had reviewed Washington’s inmate history and concluded that after a few scrapes within the system as a juvenile “he would be appropriate for re-entry” to society.

“He would be less apt to re-offend than most offenders,” McAndrew said.

Assistant State Attorney Clifton Drake argued in his closing statement that Washington should continue to serve a life sentence, which would be reviewable in 15 years. He said Washington knew exactly what he was doing as he helped plan and carry out the robbery and killing of Christopher Pitcock.

Drake described first the events of the day Pitcock was killed, and reminded Stone that Washington had helped plan the robbery and made the phone call that lured Pitcock to his death.

He also presented evidence of Washington’s disciplinary records while in prison. Those records show numerous fights, including one aggravated battery against a cellmate. They also indicate Washington has twice been found with long blades sharpened into weapons.

Prison officials had on one occasion termed Washington “a serious threat to the safety and security of staff and fellow inmates” and on at least three occasions sought to have him moved to a facility where he could be more closely monitored.

“Judge,” Drake said. “This is not the kind of person we need to be releasing into society.”