TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) —In a packed courtroom on Thursday, Judge Tharpe called Kendrick Morris’ rape crime “heinous, atrocious and cruel” and deemed the only fitting sentence for his actions is life in prison.
Almost a decade ago, when Kendrick Morris was 16, he brutally attacked and viciously raped high school senior, Queena Phu outside the Bloomingdale Library.
Phu, who used to go by the last name Vuong, had a promising future. She planned to attend the University of Florida that Fall, but the attack left her with life-altering injuries. Phu is paralyzed, blind, and can not speak. She requires full-time care.
In 2011, Morris was sentenced to 65-years in prison for the crimes.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling mandated sentences for juvenile offenders be reviewed. Morris elected to have his sentence looked at again, hoping for leniency.
The year before the Bloomingdale Library attack, Morris was 15 and raped an elderly daycare worker. Judge Tharpe took both of these crimes into consideration at Thursday’s resentencing hearing. Last month, Judge Tharpe heard countless testimonies from both the defense and the prosecution.
On Thursday, Judge Tharpe ruled that though Morris was young when he committed these crimes, he knew what he was doing and it was more than youthful discretion.
“The court finds that the nature of the defendants crimes in these two cases was was especially heinous and brutal. The court finds the defendants crimes were sexually violent in nature,” said Tharpe.
Morris stood, without expression, in front of the court.
“These crimes were particularly atrocious and cruel. Accordingly, life sentences are the only appropriate sentences in this case,” said Tharpe.
Queena’s family was in court and while happy about the life sentence, Queena’s sister Anna said their outcome will never change. Her sister hugged friends, but she was not overjoyed.
“I want to say that it’s a victory, but it seems wrong to say that,” said the victim’s sister Anna Donado. “I have to say that I think justice was served. I believe justice was served, but in the end, both lives are sentenced life.”
“This is not a joyous moment for us in any sense. We will have to take care of Queena forever and nothing has changed for us in that aspect,” said Donato.
The court will review Morris’ sentence in 20 years.
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