Tears welled up in Tiffany Willis’ eyes late Thursday morning as she looked at a photo of two cars parked outside a home near the corner of Leon Avenue and 24th Street.
She pulled back until the afternoon of September 17, 2020, when she heard the sound of a gunshot ringing in the air and saw her lover, Antonio Wright, crouched in the street.
When she finally got to the passenger side of Willis’ vehicle, she remembered him being shot, she testified.
Wright died later that day at Sarasota Memorial Hospital from his injuries.
Defendant Tydarian Moore, 30, sat across from Willis in the courtroom of District Judge Donna Padar in downtown Sarasota.
After a little more than three hours of deliberation Friday, a six-person jury found Moore guilty of manslaughter with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He will be sentenced in November.
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“Although this was a one-witness case, the jury found Tiffany Willis’ testimony very compelling and very believable,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Karen Freiwillig.
He added that the defendant’s fleeing the jurisdiction, concealing evidence and recruiting others to use his phone to help him evade police all played a role in the trial.
The maximum sentence for manslaughter with a firearm is 30 years and three years for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Fraivillig said she would seek the maximum sentences on both charges.
Moore’s attorney, Andrew Hibbert, declined to comment.
Willis and the victim’s supporters smiled and hugged each other after the trial concluded. Fraivillig said while the verdict would not bring Wright back, it was justice for his loved ones.
Separate disputes intertwined with fatal shooting
Before the fatal shooting in September 2020, Willis testified that she and Moore were friends and even let him borrow a rental car.
Their friendship ended after a dispute escalated over the destruction of the rental while in Moore’s possession.
Immediately after borrowing the car, it sustained up to $1,200 in damage after an alleged girlfriend of Moore scratched the car and slashed all four tires in May 2020, according to Willis’ testimony.
The tires were replaced with new ones, but the scratches remained. Moore said he would pay for the damage, but several days passed and Moore did not pay, Willis said.
Willis, according to Hibbert, proceeded to send Moore “threatening texts” including one in which Willis wrote “Dead to me.” He explained to the court that the text meant they were no longer friends.
On May 21, Moore met with Wright, who was in a relationship with Willis at the time.
The two men soon got into a fight near the Purple store on Mango Avenue. Wright threw a punch at Moore, who took off running. As he was leaving, Moore allegedly turned and pulled out a black handgun, firing several shots at Wright.
For four months, Willis said she was afraid to drive down Leon Avenue because she feared running into Moore, who frequented the area to visit a friend.
On the day of the shooting, Willis told the jury Moore was driving up and down Leon Avenue in his gray Corvette. According to an affidavit, Moore nearly hit Wright as he sped across the street at one point.
Willis then got into her car and drove to Leon Avenue where she ended up confronting Moore, the affidavit states. Moments later, Wright got into his silver Toyota, put the car in park, and got out. He began running toward Willis’ vehicle, and from behind, Willis said Moore drew his gun and fired.
Willis heard a second gunshot as she drove away with Wright, the affidavit states.
Moore was arrested three days after the shooting on September 20, 2020, in Bradenton by Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies.
Court records and previous reports by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune show Moore has been in and out of prison since 2009, including three times for grand theft auto, twice for fleeing law enforcement without regard public safety, burglary and the sale of cocaine.
He spent two years and six months behind bars on the cocaine charge and was released in October 2017 with 140 days credit for time served. Prior to this incident, Moore was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to two years of probation in September 2019.
The defense questions why Willis didn’t mention the earlier shooting
As Hibbert questioned Willis Thursday, he kept going back to why Willis didn’t immediately disclose to detectives about the earlier shooting at the Purple Store after the fatal shooting in September.
Willis had been interviewed at least twice by Sarasota detectives, including hours after the Sept. 17 incident and five days later when she returned for a second interview.
“Lord, he just got killed,” Willis said at one point, adding that before the second interview she was bedridden, on medication and deeply grieving Wright’s death.
She added that detectives never asked her to elaborate when she told them there had been an argument and questions focused on the Sept. 17 shooting.
After Wright died at the hospital, Willis learned there was a fight at her home after a group of people approached to fight with her daughter. She was worried about what was going on and focused on just answering the questions detectives asked her, Willis said.
Gabriela Szymanowska covers the legal system for the Herald-Tribune in association with Report for America. You can support her work with a tax-deductible donation to Fair for America. Contact Gabriela Szymanowska at email@example.com or at Twitter.
This article originally appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Suspect in 2020 homicide found guilty of involuntary manslaughter with a firearm