Fla. Boy Gets Life In Wrestling Death

ByABC News
March 8, 2001, 6:37 PM

March 9 -- Lionel Tate, the 14-year-old boy who said he was imitating professional wrestlers when he killed his 6-year-old playmate, was sentenced today to life in prison without parole.

Calling the murder of 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick "cold, callous and indescribably cruel," Broward County Judge Joel Lazarus rejected defense requests to throw out Tate's first-degree murder conviction, reduce it to second-degree murder or manslaughter, or order a new trial.

Tears rolled down Tate's cheeks after the judge read the sentence. He was placed in handcuffs and leg shackles and led off to jail. His mother seemed frozen, and several friends and relatives of the Tate family moaned and wept.

Lazarus said he was moved by the outpouring of public sympathy for the boy, but added, "at the same time I am dismayed by the lack of concern for the child victimized by Lionel Tate." Anyone who saw the physical evidence in the case could never label Tiffany's death "accidental," he said.

"The evidence of Lionel Tate's guilt is clear, obvious andindisputable," Lazarus said at a hearing in a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., courtroom. "And that evidence supports the jury's verdict."

Despite the stiff sentence, Tate still has a chance to avoid life in prison. Prosecutors said today they support defense attorneys' requests to Gov. Jeb Bush for a commuted sentence. After the sentencing, Bush said he would consider any petitions for clemency but did not indicate how he would rule.

"I am troubled by this," the governor said. "This isn't an easy thing, this is a tragic case. A young girl lost her life, this child's life has been altered forever."

'A Chance At Life'

Tate, who turned 14 last month, was convicted on Jan. 25 in the 1999 beating death.

Prosecutors said the 180-pound Tate who was 12 years old at the time inflicted brutal injuries on the 48-pound Tiffany, leaving 35 wounds, including a fractured skull, a lacerated liver, a broken rib, internal hemorrhaging and cuts and bruises.