Lionel Tate was 12 years old, above average intelligence, weighing 170 lbs when he beat little 48 lb, 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick to death on July 28 1999 in his Florida apartment. Tate’s mother Kathleen, a Florida highway patrol trooper, brought Tiffany home for the evening. After dinner Kathleen went upstairs to lie down. She yelled at the children to be quiet at 10 PM but did not go downstairs to check on them. Forty minutes later Tate told his mother Tiffany wasn’t breathing. Tate claimed he was imitating moves he’d seen by professional wrestlers and had Tiffany in a headlock as he slammed her head on a table. An autopsy revealed the child suffered much worse abuse: Tiffany suffered a beating lasting 1 – 5 minutes sustaining 35 injuries including a ruptured spleen, lacerations, a fractured skull, brain contusions, a partially detached liver, bleeding on three different sides of her brain, a broken rib, a lacerated liver, hemorrhaging kidneys, and over twenty eight bruises all over her body. In later years Tate changed his story and admitted to jumping on her from a staircase.
Lionel punched, kicked and threw Tiffany. With each bone crushing smash Tiffany would have screamed out in agony. Tiffanys’ cries were ignored. The forces that her body endured were equal to a fall from a second or third story building. As Tiffany lay on the floor, Lionel Tate, who described Tiffany as rolling around on the floor acting like a baby, having urinated in her pants went back to watching television. A few days after Tiffany’s death, Tate told police he picked her up and accidentally hit her head on a table. In a videotaped interview with a court-appointed psychologist, Tate claimed to have accidentally thrown Tiffany into a stairway railing and a wall while trying to toss her onto a sofa. Watch Lionel Tate – Juvenile defendant
Tate was street smart and bright, displaying major behavior problems for eight years prior to Tiffany’s death including fighting, assault, lying, stealing and fifteen school suspensions. As a young childm Lionel was separated often from his mother Kathleen and left with various relatives after his parents’ divorce. By the time he was 12, he was a tall, overweight bully with no friends and limited social skills. When he caused trouble at school Kathleen attended wearing her state trooper uniform to deny Lionel caused any trouble and insisted he was blameless. A psychologist examined Tate and concluded he did not have a mental illness but had a high potential for violence, uncontrolled feelings of anger, resentment and poor impulse control. Kathleen described Tiffany’s death as a “tragic accident.” She insisted her son was completely innocent. Tate pled not guilty and a jury convicted him of felony murder, resulting in a sentence of life in prison without parole. After serving 3 years in juvenile prison, Tate was released with 10 years probation, one year of house arrest, and was required to wear an electronic monitoring device. Watch Lifetime 12 year old Lionel tate convicted as an adult of first degree murder
On May 23 2005, Tate was charged with one count of armed burglary with battery, armed robbery and violation of probation. He was returned to prison. Tate criticized his public defender for not ordering a psychiatric evaluation before he took the stand in the matter of Tiffany’s murder. His mother agreed he was not receiving psychiatric help from jail. The jail denied this allegation. Tate was sentenced to 30 years in prison on May 18, 2006 for violating probation. On October 24, 2007, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal upheld that sentence. No longer a child, Tate remains a menace to society: perhaps this case should serve as a precedent where public defenders insist life in prison without parole is overly harsh for a juvenile.