Roten sentenced to 3 life terms

The Tampa Tribune/November 30, 2000
By David Sommer

The mother of a mixed-race 6-year-old shot dead by a skinhead told the man on Thursday he needs to renounce bigotry while spending the rest of his life in prison. "The blood of my little girl after you killed her is the same color as yours," Yahaira Carattini said.

Jessy Joe Roten, who was 17 when he fired an assault rifle into the home of a black neighbor, killing Ashley Mance and wounding her twin sister and a half sister, said he gave up on racism the minute he learned the girl died.

The shooting was accidental, Roten told the judge who was about to sentence him Thursday. "I'm not asking for sympathy or leniency," Roten said. "I was blinded by alcohol and adolescent frustration" on the morning of the shooting. "You can't imagine the pain this is causing me."

Roten's words appeared to have little effect on Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley. She chastened him for his racial hatred and then sentenced him to three concurrent life prison terms for his October convictions on one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder. All three charges were filed as hate crimes. That, coupled with Roten's use of a gun in committing the felonies, allowed Ley to exceed what normally would have been a 30-year maximum punishment.

Ashley Mance bled to death early on April 3, 1999, after a single high-velocity round tore through the wall of the St. Petersburg home where she was sleeping.

Aleesha Mance, Ashley's now 8-year-old twin, was hospitalized for weeks with chest wounds. Their half sister, Jailene Jones, now 6, was nicked in the ear, her life spared by the pillow that lifted her head above the bullet's trajectory.

Key evidence at Roten's October trial belied his assertion Thursday that racism was not what prompted him to shoot at the home of Terry Mance. Mance, who is black, fathered Carattini's twin daughters and was babysitting the girls.

While investigating the shooting, detectives found a note scrawled on the inside of Roten's bedroom door. "Someone had too [sic] for race and nation - Jessy Roten. To all my brothers, see you in Valhalla," the note said. Two friends from his gang, known as the St. Petersburg Skins, testified they were in the room prior to the shooting and that the note was not yet there.

On Thursday, Carattini told Roten that she long ago forgave him for taking her daughter's life. "I've never had hatred in me since Ashley died. I have peace in my heart because I know she's in a better place," the woman said.

Because she left her daughters in the care of their father on the weekend of the shooting, Carattini said she holds herself partly to blame. "As for you, I hope one of these days you repent to God," the young mother told Roten.

After hearing Roten complain of his pain, the judge focused her sympathy on the victims. "No parent should have to suffer what you and your children have suffered," Ley told Carattini and Terry Mance. "Your lives were violated and will never be the same."

Turning to Roten, the judge said it was his "hatred and rage that caused a little child to die in her bed. "No one at any age should be that full of hatred, but at your young age it was even more stunning," Ley said.

After the sentencing, Carattini expressed more sympathy for her daughter's killer. "He deserves life [in prison], but it's so sad. He's so young."

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