Anthony Williams and Leroy Rogers, two young street thugs who killed a tourist and nearly sank Miami’s tourism industry, are going to prison - at least until retirement age.
Williams, 21, will serve at least 45 years in prison before he can apply for early release. Rogers, 25, will serve at least 40 years before he can apply. Williams’ sentence is longer because he was on probation - and house arrest - when he ran over German tourist Barbara Meller Jensen in 1993.
The defendants had little to say Monday before Circuit Judge Fredricka Smith sentenced them. Both complained to the judge that they did not get a fair trial.
“That’s the law, I guess,” said Rogers, who is awaiting trial for the robbery-beating of a Miami Lakes roofer.
Despite the sentencings, the case isn’t over yet. Police still want to pursue another suspect in the Jensen slaying, which, along with four other tourist killings in 1993, led to the biggest downturn in Miami’s billion-dollar tourism industry in more than a decade.
“I’m very happy that this chapter is now behind us,” Miami homicide detective Confesor Gonzalez said outside court on Monday. “Now, we’re on to the next chapter.”
The next chapter is Lionell Twitty, owner of the dark blue Cadillac that ran over Jensen, 39, a physical therapist from Berlin, who had just arrived for a two-week vacation with her mother and two young children.
According to statements Williams and Rogers made to police, Twitty helped steal Jensen’s purse and closed the door on her as she tried to retrieve her handbag. She fell underneath the right rear tire and died.
Jensen, on her way to Miami Beach from the airport, got lost and stopped off to ask directions. The defendants, who admitted they were cruising for tourists to rob, stumbled upon Jensen when they exited the interstate.
Williams said he bumped Jensen’s Ford Tempo, so that when she exited Rogers and Twitty could grab her purse. But Jensen fought back.
Twitty has never been charged with the killing because he denies being in the Cadillac. Nor can he be charged unless Williams or Rogers agrees to testify against him.
Williams is all but ruled out. He lied during a pretrial hearing to suppress his confession, saying police had forced a statement from him, prosecutors said.
Should Twitty ever be charged, his lawyer would be able to use that to impeach Williams.
Rogers can start applying for parole at 65, Williams at 66.