Either A Blessing Or A Lesson.
Killer sent to death row for murdering mom and 11-year-old girlNOV 19, 2020 AT 3:03 PM
Kaladaa Crowell, 36 (left) and her daughter Kyra Inglett, 11, were killed in 2017. (WPEC-CBS12)
A killer of an 11-year-old girl and her mother in South Florida — brutal violence his lawyers blamed on mental illness — was sentenced to death Thursday.
Marlin Larice Joseph, 29, should be executed for the Dec. 28, 2017, murders of Kaladaa Crowell, 36, and her daughter, Kyra Inglett, said Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo.
“There can be nothing more terrifying for a child than knowing that someone has just shot their mother multiple times and now was coming after them,” Caracuzzo said. “There is no doubt that this panic-stricken little girl experienced a level of terror that no child or no one should ever have to endure.”
In February, a jury of six men and six women found Joseph guilty and unanimously recommended capital punishment.
Joseph lived in the same West Palm Beach house as the victims before shooting both in the head, first the mom and then the daughter as she ran from the house.
Joseph’s sentencing, originally set for late April, was delayed for seven months partly because of the coronavirus pandemic and also because the county’s mental health court considered defense arguments that Joseph is too mentally ill to be sent to prison or death row. After a review by doctors, the court found Joseph competent for sentencing.
Marlin Larice Joseph sits in the courtroom where he was sentenced to death in the 2017 fatal shootings of Kaladaa Crowell and her 11-year-old daughter, Kyra Inglett, in West Palm Beach Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo is seen in the upper left of the Zoom screen above Joseph as she conducts the sentencing hearing. Joseph is the first person in Palm Beach County to be sentenced to death since 2002. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)
Despite the jury’s recommendation, Caracuzzo could have opted for a life sentence. Instead, Joseph became the first person since 2002 to receive a death sentence for a Palm Beach County murder.
“Marlin Larice Joseph, you have not only forfeited your right to live among us, but under the laws of the state of Florida you have forfeited your right to live at all,” the judge said of the punishment imposed for both killings. “Marlin Larice Joseph, may God have mercy on your soul.” Joseph’s death sentences will set in motion an automatic appeal, and ultimate review by the Florida Supreme Court. In a Sept. 9 letter to the judge, Robin Denson, Joseph’s mother, wrote that before the trial her son turned down a plea deal because of his mental illness. “If Marlin were in his right mind he would of took the 60 years that the state offered him,” said Denson, who was dating Crowell before the tragedy. “Sentencing Marlin to death won’t change the fact that he’s not mentally well,” Denson said in her letter. “Sentencing Marlin to life in prison won’t change the fact that he’s not mentally well ... the healthy Marlin wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
But prosecutors Jo Wilensky, Richard Clausi and Adrienne Ellis said Joseph targeted his victims because he was angry over the way Kyra was treating his then-8-year-old daughter.
“Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable,” Clausi told the jurors, quoting from playwright Tennessee Williams. “Deliberate cruelty is what took Kaladaa’s life. Deliberate cruelty is what took Kyra’s life. And deliberate cruelty is why we’re asking you to deliver the punishment that fits the crime, with regards to what he did on that day. And that is a recommendation of death.”
Listing factors to justify a death sentence, the prosecution said shootings were “heinous, atrocious, or cruel,” for the way Joseph fired at the victims’ heads, and the slayings were done in a “cold, calculated, and premeditated manner” without any reason. The judge agreed, finding “death is the proper penalty” for Joseph’s crimes.
“Kaladaa Crowell was well aware of her impending death,” Caracuzzo said. “She suffered and begged for help.”
Joseph’s lawyers, Fred Susaneck and Sean Wagner, said he suffered from paranoid delusions and his fears caused him to pull the trigger. During the trial, they argued he didn’t do it.
Following the guilty verdict, the defense implored the jury not to treat Joseph like the “worst of the worst,” such as a serial killer. They said Joseph did not make his victims suffer, contending Kyra likely was unconscious after she was shot.
Joseph’s lawyers also presented a more favorable side of their client as a father of three young children who love him.
Before the jury voted for death, the defense showed the panel family photos and videos, including footage from a family birthday dinner at Benihana restaurant, when Joseph sat at a table with Kyra and her mom.
Also displayed were newspaper clippings and videotape from Joseph’s days as a local high school football player, before poor grades cut short a promising future on the field. Relatives and others shared stories about him.
“Marlin was a hard worker, he was caring, he was a gentle giant,” said Wayne Monroe, his former John I. Leonard High School football coach.
Denson said that before her son began struggling with mental illness, he “was so much into the Bible” and worked in construction.
The judge said she considered all of these so-called mitigating reasons, but concluded they were not enough to overcome the factors supporting death.
“The defendant presented evidence that the family loved him and that they would be devastated by his execution,” Caracuzzo said. “The court finds this mitigating circumstance was established and gives it little weight.”
Kenneth Crowell, father of Kaladaa and grandfather of Kyra, said the jury made the right decision, considering the devastation caused by Joseph.
“It was a horrendous murder, torture, execution of our babies,” Crowell told reporters in February. “Kaladaa didn’t deserve that. Kyra did not deserve that.”
Marc Freeman can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @marcjfreeman.