TAMPA — A man who murdered two South Tampa teens will spend the rest of his life behind bars after a judge Friday gave him five life sentences “for these brutal crimes.”
Charles Stephan Waits was convicted last month of murdering Kiara Brito, 16, and her brother, Jeremi, 13, during a home invasion robbery on June 5, 2011. Jurors in Waits’ trial rejected claims by Waits that he was forced to participate in the robbery by Tavari Grant and fled the house before Grant killed the teens.
Days after Waits was convicted, prosecutors dropped charges against Grant citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
Investigators had said drugs and money lured the two men to the teens’ home at 3021 W. Van Buren Drive just before 6 a.m. Kiara Brito, a friend of Waits, kept hydroponically grown marijuana in her dresser and sold enough at one point to stash $1,300 cash in her bedroom, according to police reports. The teen’s mother, Judy Brito, was at the beach with her boyfriend at the time of the killings.
On Friday, Judy Brito told the court that Waits destroyed her life.
“How can you do this?” she asked Waits. “ I never sleep right anymore. I have nightmares. You broke the heart of everyone in my family. I fight depression every minute of every day. I will never see my babies grow up. I will never see my kids have their own family. I will never get to plan my daughter’s wedding.
“I’m not sure I will ever love again. You crushed my heart. You killed my best friends. You made me question religion, my beliefs, even myself. You changed my life, everything I knew. Some days I cry so much, I physically get sick because of you. I cry every day. I will cry for the rest of my life. … Because of you I can’t really experience any kind of joy. I hope you die. You killed me when you took my children.”
Other Brito, friends and family members submitted written statements to the court. Kiara’s basketball coach at Robinson High School, Jessica Vitale, wrote about the teen’s hopes and dreams.
Vitale said in her letter that Kiara was enrolled in some of the most challenging courses at school and still maintained a grade-point average above 4.0.
“Kiara would have excelled at any college she chose and at anything she did because she was just that type of person,” Vitale wrote. “You left a huge void in the world.”
Vitale also said Waits robbed Kiara “of that special moment she would have had opening that first college acceptance letter” and killed her dreams of one day working on Wall Street.
“This was an unnecessary tragedy you have forced all of us to suffer through,” Vitale wrote. “Murder is permanent, forever, and you chose to murder two children for reasons I will never, for as long as I live, be able to understand, simply because I’m not a monster like you.”
Waits chose not to speak at his sentencing hearing. His lawyer, Octavio Gomez, said he would not make a presentation because he was facing minimum mandatory sentences of life without parole for the two murder convictions.
Gomez did ask Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles to impose the lowest possible sentence for the other charges, two counts of armed robbery and one count of armed burglary of a structure.
“My client, he didn’t wish for this to happen,” Gomez said.
But Assistant State Attorney Michelle Doherty urged life sentences for each charge “because they were two young, defenseless children that were involved in these crimes.”
Battles agreed with Doherty and imposed life sentences for each conviction, telling Waits, “Young lives. These are your victims. Absolutely senseless.”