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Texas Shoplifter Gets Life Sentence After Walmart Worker Dies

FORT WORTH, Texas ~ (Star-Telegram) ~ A shoplifter in Texas has been sentenced to life in prison for a shoplifting charge that resulted in the death of a Walmart employee.< 38-year-old William Alan Kennedy was not charged causing the death of 56-year-old Bruce Florence, but a Tarrant County judge found Kennedy guilty of aggravated robbery because he knocked Florence down when he tried to run out of the Westworth Village Walmart on June 11th, 2010 with a stolen television worth $348. Florence, who struck his head when he hit the floor, was hospitalized and died on June 20th. Tarrant County medical examiner's office ruled that end-stage live cirrhosis was the cause of Florence's death, not the head injury.

Nelda Cacciotti, who prosecuted the case with Mark Thielman, said in a press release issued by the Tarrant County district attorney's office, "After conscious deliberations, the jury agreed that Kennedy's actions were a serious threat to Bruce Florence. We hope that all shoplifters get the message that store thefts may have long-term consequences for the victim and the defendant." Cathy Florence, widow of the deceased, said Kennedy took the witness stand during the trial and apologized. "He just said he was sorry. He didn't mean to knock Bruce down. He wasn't trying to hurt Bruce or anything," she said, "he apologized but I didn't think it was a sincere apology." Still, Florence said the conclusion of the trial seemed to bring an end to her sleepless nights and that she was surprised by the sentence.

In Texas, aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony and is essentially a crime of robbery which includes several "aggravating" factors that make it a more serious crime, such as:

- Causing serious bodily injury to another person

- Using or exhibiting a deadly weapon

- Causing bodily injury to another person, or placing someone in fear of bodily injury if the victim is 65 years of age or older

A person convicted of a first-degree felony is punishable by a prison term between 5 to 99 years or life, under the Texas Penal Code. State District judge Mike Thomas likely found Kennedy's actions were dangerous and caused serious bodily injury to Florence. The sentence, handed down on September 28th, was also possibly compounded due to Kennedy's five other state felony charges for theft of property in similar Fort Worth shoplifting cases, four of which involved Walmart locations. Kennedy's attorney said he thought life in prison was a hefty price to pay for a TV and has already filed an appeal.

Photo credit: The Examiner

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