Boy in 'Wrestling Death' Freed From Jail
Jan. 26, 2004
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ Lionel Tate, the teen who killed a 6-year-old playmate and became the youngest defendant in the nation to be locked away for life, was released Monday after three years behind bars.
Tate clasped hands with his mother and they raised their arms in celebration after the 16-year-old left the jail surrounded by friends, family and lawyers.
Circuit Judge Joel Lazarus earlier ordered Tate freed without bail, a month after an appeals court threw out the boy's conviction because his mental competency was not evaluated before trial. Tate has since struck a plea bargain that will mean no further time in prison.
Supporters have rallied from the Vatican to the United Nations to free Tate since he was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 6-year-old playmate Tiffany Eunick three years ago. Tate was 12 when he punched, kicked and stomped the 48-pound girl to death in 1999.
Tate had claimed he accidentally killed the girl while imitating professional wrestling moves he had seen on television.