FORT WORTH -- A 38-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison in a shoplifting case that ended in the death of a Walmart employee.
Although William Alan Kennedy was never charged with causing the death of Bruce Florence, a Tarrant County jury found the Fort Worth man guilty of aggravated robbery for knocking Florence, 56, down while trying to run out of the Westworth Village Walmart with a stolen TV worth $348 on June 11, 2010.
Florence, who hit his head on the floor, was hospitalized and died June 20.
The Tarrant County medical examiner's office, however, ruled that end-stage liver cirrhosis -- not the head injury -- caused Florence's death.
"After conscientious deliberations, the jury agreed that Kennedy's actions were a serious threat to Bruce Florence," Nelda Cacciotti, who prosecuted the case with Mark Thielman, said in a news release issued by the Tarrant County district attorney's office Thursday. "We hope that all shoplifters get the message that store thefts may have long-term consequences for the victim and the defendant."
The jury deliberated almost three hours before finding Kennedy guilty of aggravated robbery. State District Judge Mike Thomas then sentenced Kennedy to life in prison.
Kennedy has appealed the case. His attorney, Ronald Couch, could not be reached for comment.
Cathey Florence, Florence's widow, said Kennedy took the witness stand during the trial and apologized when his attorney asked whether he wanted to say anything to the widow.
"He just said he was sorry. He didn't mean to knock Bruce down. He wasn't trying to hurt Bruce or anything," Cathey Florence said. "He apologized, but I didn't think it was a sincere apology."
Still, she said, she was surprised by the sentence.
"My heart went out to his mom and dad," Cathey Florence said. "My heart went out to them because we never want to see our kids fail in life. We always want the best for them, but I know their hearts were very heavy yesterday."
Cathey Florence said the trial's conclusion seemed to bring an end to her sleepless nights.
"Last night, when everything was over, I was able to sleep for once in my life," she said. "I slept pretty good last night."
Besides aggravated robbery, court records show that Kennedy was also convicted Wednesday on five state-jail-felony charges of theft of property in similar shoplifting cases in Fort Worth, four of which involved Walmarts.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655
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