In court Thursday, the man charged the 2001 silicone-injection death of a Carol City woman who wanted to enhance her buttocks, thanked his attorney for making him a free man.
Mark Hawkins, 42, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of third-degree murder and practicing medicine without a license. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors offered six years in prison, most of which he has served while awaiting trials and appeal. Hawkins' attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said Thursday his client could be released from custody as early as this week, depending on what the state Department of Corrections decides.
Hawkins was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2003 for his role in the death of Vera Lawrence, but his conviction was overturned in April, when the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that a medical examiner provided unreliable testimony.
Hawkins and his former lover, Donnie "Viva" Hendrix, traveled from South Caroline to Miramar for silicone "pumping parties," gatherings for back-alley beauty treatments.
In March 2001, Lawrence went to the Miramar apartment of a transvestite named Corey "Cookie" Williams to undergo injections administered by Hawkins and Hendrix. Lawrence died the next day.
Hendrix was sentenced in 2003 to five years in prison for practicing medicine without a license.
Lawrence's daughter, Tangela Sears of Miami, told Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein that she was confused and dismayed by the higher court ruling, and said she wished prosecutors could have found another expert in the case.
"Where has the justice been served for a life that's been taken?" she said. Assistant State Attorney Howard Scheinberg said he searched nationwide for another medical expert willing to testify, but said the appeals court ruling crippled the state's case.
"I feel terribly for her loss," Scheinberg said. "I cannot change what the appeals court wrote."
Hawkins, in a red maximum-security jumpsuit, remained expressionless throughout the proceeding.
He spoke at the end to thank his attorney and Broward Circuit Judge Peter Weinstein. Hawkins will likely live with family in South Carolina, said Schwartzreich.
Sears said Thursday's ruling in her mother's death " was not the closure that I wanted."