TAMPA (FOX 13) - The man who raped, beat and left a teenage girl for dead outside a public library nine years ago was sentenced to life in prison Thursday.
Kendrick Morris was originally sentenced to 65 years in prison for the crime, but appeared in court last month to request a lighter sentence. He was granted the re-sentencing hearing after a Supreme Court decision that determined lengthy sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional, and that they should have the opportunity for parole.
However, a re-sentencing hearing doesn't guarantee a lesser sentence. In Morris' case, it meant more time in prison. Now, instead of 65 years, he is sentenced to life.
"I want to say that it's a victory but it seems wrong to say that," said Anna Donato, whose sister, Queena, was Morris' victim. "I believe justice was served. But in the end both lives are now sentenced to life and it's just such a sad and unfortunate situation for everybody involved."
In 2008, Kendrick Morris attacked Queena, who was 18 years old, as she was dropping off books at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in Valrico. Morris dragged her behind the building, where he raped and beat Queena so violently, he robbed her of the ability to see, talk or walk on her own.
Judge Chet Tharpe got choked up as he read through the details of Queena's case.
"These crimes were particularly atrocious and cruel," Tharpe said. "Life sentences are the only appropriate sentences in this case."
"It's always difficult to relive that day but it's just a reminder of how horrific the crime was,” Donato told reporters afterward.
Morris also received a life sentence for another violent rape he committed in 2007.
Queena's family has been has been hoping Morris would receive a life sentence.
"I know that she needs the closure," Donato said, adding a harsher sentence won't change anything for Queena. "It's not over. It's going to be a lifetime commitment taking care of my sister."
Doctors had told the judge they believe Morris could be rehabilitated, although Judge Tharpe did not agree.
Morris will be up for a sentencing review in 2031.
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