CLEARWATER — Drug dealer Tore Holley was in a back bedroom with a woman when an armed group burst through the front door, looking for drugs and money.
The thieves went from room to room, overturning couches, tearing open the upholstery, rifling through cabinets.
By the time they got to the bedroom Holley and Tamika Mack were in, Holley had armed himself with a Pyrex pot he used to cook crack-cocaine, prosecutors say.
Holley braced himself against the door as one of the intruders tried to force his way in, and when it partially opened, Holley swung the pot into the face of the person on the other side, blood-stained pieces of glass falling to the floor in the hallway.
That blood turned out to belong to John Curry, another South St. Petersburg drug dealer, implicating Curry in what happened next at the drug house at 4034 11th Ave. S. Curry’s accomplices shot and wounded Holley and killed Mack as she begged for her life, telling them she had two children.
After deliberating for only two hours, a jury on Thursday found Curry, 24, guilty of first-degree murder and attempted felony murder in the April 8, 2012, fatal home invasion. Pinellas Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton sentenced him to two concurrent life sentences.
Though Curry did not fire the weapon that killed Mack, 24, and wounded Holley, now 31, in the Easter Sunday home invasion, jurors held him as accountable as the actual shooter, who was never identified, because he took part in the crime.
After Holley smashed the pot into Curry’s face, one of Curry’s accomplices fired through the door, wounding Holley. As the intruders burst in, Holley fell to the floor and played dead, even as he was kicked and pistol-whipped.
By one of Holley’s accounts, Mack had hidden under the bed, but the intruders overturned a mattress and found her. She was found shot in the forehead in the closet. At the time, she was working as a certified nursing assistant and had two boys, 6 and 3.
She was not involved in the drug trade, and the only mistake she made was getting involved with the likes of Holley, Assistant State Attorney Evan Brodsky told jurors in his closing arguments.
After Mack was shot, both she and Holley had to stay in the bedroom as the intruders continued searching the house. After the intruders left, Holley sought help a couple of houses away.
Mack was pronounced dead at Bayfront Medical Center about four and a half hours after she was shot.
There was $10,000 in a Crown Royal bag tied up in a closet, but the thieves didn’t find it, according to authorities. They poured bleach over Holley, Mack and some clothes and in other parts of the house, apparently to destroy DNA, but they missed the glass pieces with Curry’s blood on it.
Curry was arrested in August 2012 in Blountstown, in the Panhandle. At first, he denied going to the house or even knowing who the victims were, according to a police report. But once faced with the evidence linking him, Curry changed his story.
He said and his two accomplices had been drinking in a nearby park and decided to go to the 11th Avenue house because they had heard there was $50,000 in cash there, plus drugs. He admitted to being the one struck but thought thought he’d been hit with a lamp.
Curry walked outside while his two accomplices remained, he told authorities. He heard one of them say,“What’s this?” Then Curry said he heard a woman screaming, a gunshot, and then the screaming stopped.