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Lionel Tate Case

Aired January 29, 2004 - 13:25   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Live pictures now from a Ft. Lauderdale courtroom. There in the purple, you see Deweese Eunick, the mother of the victim in the Lionel Tate case, little Tiffany Eunick, killed by Lionel Tate several years ago. Let's listen to her as she makes her statement.

DEWEESE EUNICK-PAUL, TIFFANY EUNICK'S MOTHER: She was a beautiful little girl with a smile that would shine, and innocent like a little angel. She was my daughter, my only child. And together, we traveled through the story that was life.

My daughter was bright. My daughter had a wonderful personality. My daughter was very kind, respectful and full of life. She had the rest of her first grade to look forward to and all of elementary school ahead of her. She was growing slowly up into a beautiful woman who would make a difference in our county, our state, our nation, and in our world. We were a team. We were a family. We were happy and healthy.

Tiffany's future was bright, and my dreams for her were even brighter. I had so many dreams for my daughter, but these dreams were all taken away. When I trusted -- someone I thought that was a caring police officer. I trusted a woman that I thought was a caring mother. I trusted a woman I thought that would properly supervise my baby.

Kathleen says she went upstairs to sleep. She left my little first grader with Lionel, at the time, 170 pounds, alone, unsupervised. She went upstairs, closed her door, and allegedly went to sleep. Kathleen knew Lionel had approximately 12 school suspensions or corporal punishments for discipline problem over the last four years. Kathleen knew he had trouble fighting, destruction of property, a constant problem, always initiating disturbance. Kathleen knew that Lionel's father had told her one time he couldn't deal with Lionel. Kathleen still left my baby downstairs with him.

Kathleen admitted on psychological testing that Tate's behavior only makes others angry. She admitted that Lionel tends to see how much he can get away with. Kathleen admitted that Lionel had been difficult to manage. She admitted she was worried about Lionel's lack of concern for other's feeling. She admitted Lionel is good at lying his way out of trouble. Kathleen admitted, on a child behavior check list, that Lionel destroys things belonging to his family and other children.

She knew all of this, yet she turned her back on my baby, my daughter, went upstairs to allegedly sleep behind closed doors. She left behind her son, and she knew he destroyed things.

My daughter was not a thing. But, Lionel, you destroyed my baby. Lionel beat her so badly that no mother on this earth should ever have to live with the knowledge of those 35 injuries. No mother should have to live with the knowledge that her daughter cried out in pain and Kathleen Grossett-Tate would not come downstairs to help my baby. No mother should have to feel the pain every time she wears a police uniform and keeps up excuses for Lionel by crying that this was an accident. The prosecutor, the grand jury, and even the 12-member jury of our community all said it was a murder and not an accident.

You, the judge, found that this was a murder, and said it was cold, callous and indescribably cruel. The appeals court even said the evidence was clear and my daughter was brutally slain.

Yet, Kathleen continues the deception by calling this an accident. She stood behind the fraudulent defense of professional wrestling. She stood behind all four different versions of the murder that have come from Lionel Tate.

Kathleen, you can't hide behind the deception any more. Why did you lie to the paramedic John Casey as he was try to save my daughter's life...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. I'm going to ask you to address your comments to me, not to Mrs. Tate or anybody else.

EUNICK-PAUL: Why did...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's addressing the court with a statement that she's prepared, concerning her feelings about this. And it's my position, your honor, to the court that she be allowed to tell the court what she feels about this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She can tell the court what she feels but she's not addressing any comments to any particular person, except to the court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is addressing to the court, your honor.


EUNICK-PAUL: OK. Why did Kathleen -- is that OK? I said you.

OK. Why did Kathleen lie to the paramedic, John Casey, as he was trying to trying to save my daughter's life. And why did she tell him no one else was in the house, except her and Tiffany, when Lionel was in the house? Mr. Casey was shocked to learn later that Lionel was actually in the house.

When Kathleen's supervisor, the Florida Highway Patrol, two years before the murder, William Farrell (ph), came to Kathleen's house at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, he testified he smelled bleach. Kathleen, under oath, during the trial, testified that she -- there was no bleach and that she was not using the machine. Lieutenant Farrell testified that Kathleen had noise -- he heard noise and commotion from upstairs two times, and each time she yelled from upstairs, but would not go downstairs to check on my little girl.

Jimmy Collins testified that Kathleen Grossett-Tate admitted to cleaning up blood with bleach before the paramedics came to treat Tiffany. Why would Sergeant Jimmy lie about these things?

Why would another officer from Kathleen's department, Bobby Collins, observe Kathleen flip over the bloody pillow while the sheriff's office crime scene technicians were collecting evidence? Why would Kathleen Grossett-Tate, an experienced officer, who went to the police academy, testify that she did not know that Lionel Tate was facing first degree murder?

Why would Kathleen, a police officer, make that arrest on her job, says on national TV that Lionel did not get a fair trial and cannot get a fair trial in the future?

There is no more hiding behind this deception. Kathleen can hide from behind her badge, the lawyers, the ministers, the Nation of Islam, but you cannot hide from the truth -- Kathleen cannot hide from the truth.

This was not child's play. This was not rough housing. This was a brutal murder. I never wanted Lionel Tate to have a life sentence. I found a tough, but compassionate prosecutor, Ken Padowitz, who agreed with me to offer Lionel that plea deal three years ago before -- three years ago, because of his age when he did this. This could have been over three years ago. I agreed to the plea offer three years ago, and I agree to the plea of guilty the second degree murder. I did not agree to the words "in your best interest."

Lionel Tate should accept responsibility for my daughter's murder, not accept responsibility for an accident. Lionel Tate's lawyers can stop talking about a private conversation that Lionel and I had in regards to his responsibility and apology for my daughter's murder. We never had that conversation.

Last conversation I remember having with Lionel was when Lionel came to my house and asked me for Tiffany's toys, since Tiffany was dead. My hope and my prayers for Lionel Tate are that Lionel will grow up to be a law-abiding citizen and live out his dreams.

I firmly -- I firmly -- I firmly believe in God, and I believe in forgiveness. I so much believe in God and forgiveness that I have forgiven you, Lionel. I have forgiven Lionel. And I have forgiven Lionel for brutally murdering my daughter.

Lionel's freedom is not a cause for celebration, as some of the adults around here say, and set a bad example. My daughter is dead. There should be no celebration.

My wish is that Lionel would grow up and never hurt another human being. No other mother should have to live through the torture that I have lived through since July 1999.

Lionel was young at the time when this happened and I prayed for Lionel rehabilitation. I am here today to remind everyone that this case is not about Lionel Tate. This case was about a beautiful little 6-year-old girl, first grade angel named Tiffany.

O'BRIEN: We have been listening to Tiffany Eunick's mother. And -- Deweese Eunick offering a tremendous amount of anger, and yet forgiveness, all in the same speech. The anger directed mostly toward Lionel Tate's mother, Kathleen Grossett-Tate, there in the courtroom as well.


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