Cutts gets new sentencing

OKEECHOBEE — Kevin Cutts, who is serving a life sentence for the 1995 murder of Elizabeth Faye Hatfield, 18, is getting a new sentencing hearing.

Kevin Cutts

Kevin Cutts

Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright said Monday, June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012, in Miller v. Alabama, that automatically sentencing a juvenile to life in prison violated Miller’s Eighth Amendment right.

Cutts was 17 years old when he entered Ms. Hatfield’s 60-foot mobile home on March 15, 1995, and shot the woman as she slept in her bed. Sleeping beside the woman was her 8-month-old daughter, who was not injured.

Cutts was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated burglary with a battery. In exchange for his testimony against co-defendant Ryan Harris, the death penalty was taken off the table and Cutts was sentenced by now-retired Circuit Court Judge Dwight L. Geiger to life on each count.

Ryan Harris

Ryan Harris

In their ruling, the high court said such a sentence was cruel and unusual punishment, added Mr. Albright.

“In the Miller v. Alabama case, the question was: Is this ruling going to be retroactive?” explained the prosecutor. “In 2015, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that it will be retroactive. Cutts then filed his motion in September of 2015.”

The new sentencing for Cutts, now 39, will be held in the Okeechobee County Judicial Complex Wednesday, June 29. Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn will be presiding.

“The judge has to consider other sentences in lieu of a mandatory life sentence. He will now have to consider other, less stringent sentences first, but he can still give Cutts life,” said Mr. Albright. “On count two, Cutts will get a new sentence but he cannot get a life sentence on that charge.”

This case was initially prosecuted by assistant state attorney Bruce Harrison.

Defense attorney Jeff Garland represented Cutts.

Harris, now 40 years old, was initially convicted of murder. But, that was lowered to manslaughter on appeal. He was then sentenced to seven years in prison.

He served that time and was released but was arrested and convicted for having sexual relations with a 16-year-old boy in Tallahassee. He was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on that conviction.

Harris is currently serving a 15-year-prison term after being found guilty of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. He is serving that sentence in the Okeechobee Correctional Institution.

Harris, who was 18 at the time of Ms. Hatfield’s murder, was the father of her daughter. The two were never married.

The investigation was handled by Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Detective George Suttle, who has since retired.

In an interview shortly after the killing, the detective said Harris and Ms. Hatfield were having “domestic problems” so Harris convinced his friend Cutts to kill her.

Cutts entered the woman’s mobile home in Four Seasons Estates and shot her multiple times in the head and face with a 9mm Ruger handgun. That handgun was later found in Harris’s home, said Detective Suttle.

Mr. Albright said gloves worn by Cutts were found in Harris’s car.

The prosecutor went on to explain that although he was the actual shooter, Cutts never went to trial. Instead, he chose to take the state’s plea deal on Feb. 28, 1997, which was before Harris went to trial.

Then, after Harris was convicted, Cutts was adjudicated guilty and sentenced.

While he was in juvenile detention, Cutts fashioned what he called a “joke” that was to be sent to a friend. However, it was intercepted by detention personnel.

Detective Suttle’s report detailed that joke: “Tell me what you think of this joke. What would Elizabeth be doing if she were alive today? Scratching at the inside of her coffin.”

He also fashioned the following poem, which details the killing.

I can feel my breathing as I’m running down the street,
my mind flashes briefly upon what I meet.
When I reach my victim’s chambers, I quickly glance around,
I then look a littler closer and what I sought, I’ve found.
My presence here is questioned, no words to her were said,
she sees me raise my weapon, in her eyes a glimpse of dead.
Before she mouths a scream, a few casings hit the floor,
I believe my job is finished, so I turn to face the door.
Before I reach the exit I hear a deathly cry,
the only thing I’m thinking is no matter what, this girl must die.
Turning around I get in closer, I place the gun against her head,
again silence is broken, there’s no doubt this time she’s dead.
Without a moment’s notice I took my final leave,
for some reason I look back, what I see, I can’t believe.
A picture so horrendous no description can be gave (sic),
you couldn’t stand the details even if you (sic) truly brave.
I then continue with my exit running for my car,
I parked a short distance but now it seems so far.
Minutes now have passed, my words are lacking thought,
all that leaves my mouth is about who I just shot.
Hours later I’m arrested.
I hope you like my tail (sic),
nothing more will happen.
Now, I sit and rot in jail.
Signed,
The End of Kevin Cutts.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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