Almost four years after he stabbed Kendall Berry in the chest with a pair of scissors, Quentin Wyche received forgiveness from Berry’s mother.
She even said he deserved “mercy.”
Wyche would get some leniency Monday from a Miami-Dade judge, who sentenced the former Florida International University student to 20.5 years in prison for the on-campus murder of the Panthers’ star running back.
Judge Miguel de la O levied the minimum sentence required under a second-degree murder conviction but acknowledged he struggled with handing out that stiff of a sentence.
“There is plenty of blame to go around for the events of March 25, 2010,” de la O said. “Mr. Berry paid for his role in those events with his life and you’ll have to pay for it with your freedom.”
Wyche stabbed Berry following a confrontation with the football player’s girlfriend and a scrum with several football players that March night. The killing of the popular sophomore from Haines City rocked the university and prompted an internal report by the school lambasting its own response to the incident. It also tested Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.
According to witnesses, Wyche had argued earlier that day with Berry’s girlfriend, Regina Johnson, who worked for a campus golf cart shuttle-service system. She had refused to give him a ride, so Wyche smashed a cookie in the young woman’s face.
That led Berry and several football players to later confront Wyche outside a rec center on the Modesto A. Maidique campus in West Miami-Dade, where he had been playing in an intramural basketball game. Witnesses said Wyche broke away from the scrum toward the building and Berry ran after him.
Wyche then pulled a pair of scissors from his backpack and stabbed Berry.
Wyche said he feared for his life and claimed self defense under Stand Your Ground, which eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using lethal force to meet a threat of death or great bodily harm. But a previous judge would not grant Wyche immunity.
Prosecutors also said Wyche taunted Berry, then 22, after stabbing him. And one witness, who de la O said was key to upholding the second-degree murder conviction, testified that she saw Wyche lunge at Berry with the scissors and heard him saying, “I’m gonna kill him.”
On Monday, Berry’s father, Derrick Spillman, said the family was praying for Wyche’s family. He did not ask for a stiffer sentence.
“At end of day, my life is still going to be the same no matter whether Mr. Wyche gets 10 days or 100 days. The worst thing that could happen to me and my family” has already happened, he said.
Wyche, from Deland, didn’t testify during his September trial. But he apologized Monday to Berry’s family, and told his mother to “stay strong, Mama Berry.”
“My answer for why I brought out a pair of scissors was only to scare a group of men,” Wyche said. “But it ended up being to the death of your son and I’m sorry for that.”
Wyche said he didn’t recognize Berry the night he killed him, but looked him up afterward and realized the two were from rival Pop Warner football towns. He said they also met once at FIU when Berry asked into a pickup basketball game Wyche and others were playing, with cash on the line.
“He played hard, we played hard as a team and it was a close game. Kendall hit the game winning shot for us too and we won a lot of money,” Wyche said.
After he spoke, Berry’s mother stood and told Judge de la O: “We do forgive Quentin and we know it’s hard on their family as well. I ask that you have mercy.”
That was the request Wyche’s pastor, mother and two former job supervisors also had for de la O. They spoke about how Wyche was a lifeguard who worked at a Deland community center, and how he worked at a Fort Lauderdale academy for second-chance kids after he was released on bond. His mother Wendy Massey said he continued school after his release on bond.
“This is a college student who was confronted in a fight and used an excessive degree of force in defending himself,” said Wyche’s attorney, David Peckins. “This is a person whose life has potential.”
De la O said he struggled with Monday’s hearing because he felt Wyche only deserved a manslaughter sentence. But he said evidence and testimony supported the jury’s second-degree murder conviction.
He granted Wyche time-served for a stint he spent on house arrest, and said Wyche would be eligible to shave years off his sentence through good behavior. Wyche will serve five years parole after his release from prison.
Following the hearing, Wyche’s mother, said “there is an appeal to come.”
“He was fighting for his life,” Massey said.