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Thompson v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

August 3, 2018

Lavar Monte Thompson, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Union County. David P. Kreider, Judge.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and Nada M. Carey, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, and Robert Quentin Humphrey, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Per Curiam.

         A grand jury indicted Lavar Thompson for first-degree murder, home-invasion robbery, burglary with a firearm, kidnapping, and arson. Thompson was convicted on all counts. Because the State sought the death penalty, the case proceeded to a penalty phase, after which the jury voted to spare Thompson's life. The court sentenced Thompson to life in prison, and Thompson now appeals.

         I.

         Bill and Connie Couch lived in Lake Butler. Their property comprised a mobile home, several outbuildings, and a camper trailer Mr. Couch called his "man cave." The Couches' daughter, Chloe, and Mrs. Couch's son from a previous relationship lived with them on the property.

         In January 2012, Ronald Griffis knocked on the Couches' front door, offering to pave their driveway. After some negotiating, Griffis and Mr. Couch agreed on a deal, and Griffis said he would come back with a work crew to begin the job.

         The next day, Griffis arrived with his girlfriend and two other workers: Amanda Jeffery (Griffis's sister) and Michael Pierce, known to the work crew by his street name, "Rat." The crew worked on the driveway for the next two days. When they finished, the crew asked Mrs. Couch for payment. Mrs. Couch, who was home alone with Chloe, told them Mr. Couch would pay them after he returned and inspected the job. Dissatisfied with this response, Rat became agitated and started pacing back and forth on the Couches' porch saying he'd get his money "one way or another." Mrs. Couch eventually called law enforcement, and officers told the work crew that if they wanted to wait for Mr. Couch, they had to do so off the Couches' property. Meanwhile, Jeffery decided to drive Rat back to his apartment in Starke while the rest of the crew waited on the side of the road near the Couches' home.

         On the drive to Starke, Jeffery and Rat discussed burglarizing the Couches' property to get the money they felt they were owed. Rat said he knew someone who could help them do it. Arriving at his apartment complex, Rat saw Appellant Lavar Thompson walking nearby and told him to expect a call later that night. Around 2:30 in the morning, Rat called Jeffery, telling her to come pick him and Thompson up in Starke. Jeffery did as she was told.

         A few hours later, Mrs. Couch woke up to find a masked man holding a gun in her face. The man told her "this is a robbery" and said he was going to rape her. With her daughter sleeping nearby, Mrs. Couch begged the man not to. The man then said he would not rape her, but he forced her out of the mobile home, across the yard, and into the Couches' camper.

         As Mrs. Couch entered the camper, she saw Mr. Couch covered in blood. His teeth were on the floor. Another masked man-significantly taller than the first and wearing a tan jacket- was standing next to Mr. Couch. The taller man took Mrs. Couch into the camper's bedroom and demanded combinations to nearby safes. When Mrs. Couch explained she didn't know the combinations, both men started beating Mr. Couch with a wrench and stabbing him with an ice pick.

         The taller man sat Mrs. Couch down on the couch next to her husband and started binding her with duct tape. When Mrs. Couch resisted, the man struck her on the forehead with a gun. The men then asked Mrs. Couch where they kept their gasoline. She said she didn't know. Eventually, one of the men left the camper and returned with lighter fluid, spraying it throughout the camper and on Mr. Couch. Mrs. Couch asked if they were going to burn her and Mr. Couch alive. ...


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