Court Overturns Cop Killer's Death Sentence
St. Lucie County, FL – A convicted murderer sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of a St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office sergeant will be resentenced due to a change in Florida state law.
Eriese Tisdale, 31, murdered St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Gary Morales on Feb. 28, 2013, during a traffic stop in Fort Pierce, the Treasure Coast Palm reported.
Another sheriff’s deputy was pulling up to the scene at the time of the altercation, and witnessed Tisdale shooting Sgt. Morales seven times, hitting him in the neck, head, and arm, prosecutors said during the 2015 trial.
Sgt. Morales, 35, died in his patrol car, leaving behind a wife and two children.
Tisdale was convicted of various felonies, including first-degree murder of a police officer.
Nine of the 12 members of the jury voted in favor of the death penalty, and Tisdale was sent to death row in 2016.
But on Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the killer must be resentenced, due to a law change that requires a unanimous jury vote before a judge can sentence a convicted offender to death.
“Even to this day, I hear my mom when she called me screaming, ‘Your brother’s dead! Your brother’s dead!’” Sgt. Morales’ brother, Brian Morales, told WPBF. “It’s just terrible that we have to relive this again.”
“Some of us are maybe just starting to get to some type of normalcy. And it’s a smack in the face,” Brian explained, holding back tears. “You’re just taking a wound and just peeling off the scab again to relive all of this.”
St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara said he respects the law, but that he was disappointed to learn of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“We’re all one family,” Sheriff Mascara told the news outlet. “We’ll all be very saddened to go through this event one more time.”
“It is another tragic moment in one of the greatest tragedies our agency has ever experienced,” the sheriff said in a statement, according to WPTV.
“Now, both the Morales family and Gary’s Sheriff’s Office family will have to once again relive the horrific act that took away a hero, a son, a dad, a husband, and a friend,” he continued. “And we will have to once again listen to the litany of pathetic excuses Tisdale offered in mitigation of his sentence.”
Despite the fact that the Morales family will have to go back to court to ensure justice is served, they have been comforted by the outpouring of support from those who knew Sgt. Morales in his role as a law enforcement officer, WBPF reported.
“It’s just touching,” Brian said. “We didn’t know this stuff. He had this second life [as a deputy]. And he was just my brother, you know?”
Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said he knew the resentencing order was “inevitable,” and that he spoke to the Morales family about the anticipated turn of events in order to prepare them, the Treasure Coast Palm reported.
“I had a long conversation with them and prepared them for what we knew was likely to occur,” Bakkedahl explained. “They are well informed, they know what my position and the State Attorney’s position is moving forward.”
“Quite frankly, the sooner it comes back [before the court], the sooner I can send him back to death row,” he said.
“I have already confirmed with State Attorney Bruce Colton and Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl that they will once again vehemently seek the death penalty, and I trust that justice will be done,” Sheriff Mascara said, according to WPTV.
The date for Tisdale’s resentencing has yet to be scheduled, WPBF reported.