SEMINOLE — Mother knows best.
That’s what Assistant State Attorney Doug Ellis told jurors Friday as he tried to persuade them to convict Darius Bussey in the Dec. 28, 2011, shooting death of a convenience store clerk in Seminole.
It wasn’t until Bussey’s mother told her son she recognized him as the culprit in a store surveillance video that Bussey admitted to killing Mohammod T. Islam at the JFS Food Mart, Ellis told the jury.
“No one knows in the whole world better than Mom,” Ellis told jurors. “You can’t deny Mom.”
The jurors didn’t.
After deliberating for less than three hours, the panel found Bussey guilty of first-degree murder in the death of the 37-year-old clerk. In accordance with the law, Circuit Judge Keith Meyer subsequently meted out the only sentence possible — life in prison.
Bussey, now 24, went into the food mart, looked around to make sure no customers were there, then leaned over the counter and shot Islam once with a .22-caliber handgun as Islam was sitting, Ellis said during closing arguments.
The bullet pierced Islam’s lung and heart and broke two ribs.
Bussey hopped over the counter, pistol-whipped Islam, and tried to force Islam up to the cash register to open it, Ellis said. But Islam fell to the floor and Bussey left without any money.
In addition to the store video, Bussey was implicated by three palm prints and a fingerprint left on the glass counter, Ellis said.
Authorities released parts of the surveillance video to the media in an effort to identify the thief. Bussey’s aunt, with whom he was staying, recognized him and subsequently took him to Georgia, Ellis said in his closing remarks.
Bussey was tracked to the Valdosta area and eventually was interviewed by Pinellas Sheriff’s Detective John Spoor. Bussey denied having been in the store 38 times before his mother, Rochelle Mudd, showed up, Ellis said.
Quoting from the transcript of the interview, Ellis told jurors what Bussey’s mother said to her son.
“’I want you to understand,’” Ellis read. “’I have watched the video. I have seen the pictures. You have been in that store.’”
“His own mother ….says, ‘That’s him,’” Ellis said. His uncle and his aunt — the couple with whom Bussey was living just a few blocks away from the food mart — also identified him as the culprit in the video.
“Now he knows when Mom’s going to say he’s there, it’s kind of over,” Ellis said. “He starts to turn.”
Bussey needed the money because he had three children, no job and recently had lost Social Security benefits for a learning disability after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Mudd was in court Friday, but declined to comment to a reporter. When the verdict was read, she bowed her head, hands clasped and closed her eyes.