Victim's mother: 'Take his offer ... so we can try to move on'

Public defender asks state attorney to take death penalty off table

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of a murdered cellphone store manager has repeatedly asked the State Attorney's Office to no longer seek the death penalty against the man charged with killing her daughter.

Now, chief public defender Matt Shirk is also petitioning on her behalf.

He sent a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey, imploring her to reconsider seeking the death penalty against 24-year-old James Rhodes, who police say robbed and then killed 20-year-old Shelby Farah in Brentwood in the summer of 2013. The crime was caught on camera.

DOCUMENT: Shirk's letter to State Attorney on Rhodes

Darlene Farah, Shelby's mother, said she wants prosecutors to accept a plea deal that Rhodes and his attorneys have come up with.

He'd plead guilty to murder and get two consecutive life sentences plus 20 years in state prison. There wouldn't be a trial, and he could not appeal.

“Take his offer, let it be over with so we can start our healing process, so we can try to move on,” Darlene Farah said.

Farah said she wants to make it clear that she's not against prosecutors. She thinks they're working hard on the case.

But she doesn't know why they won't listen to her wishes to accept a plea deal.

She said it was a relief to see Shirk's letter asking Corey to take the death penalty off the table for Rhodes.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Farah said.

Shirk said the plea deal could save taxpayers $24 million that would be spent on appeals if Rhodes is sentenced to death.

“This would ensure that this man never gets out of prison,” Shirk said.

Shirk said Rhodes is willing to own up to what he did and face the consequences as long as he's not executed.

“(I'm) not sure (why the death penalty is still on the table), but it's rare in a case where you have the next of kin of the victim of a homicide that wishes life, and a defendant who is willing to accept life, and the only obstacle happens to be the state attorney,” Shirk said. “That's rare.”

Corey accepted such a deal in the case of Jared Harrell, the man convicted of killing 7-year-old Somer Thompson, after Somer's mother made the same request.

Corey's office issued a statement Friday, responding to Shirk's letter:

"This case is set for a hearing on Feb. 24 to address the various motions filed by the defendant regarding the death penalty. The State is still seeking the death penalty in this case and will file a formal response addressing these motions. Due to this being a pending matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Farah said the plea deal would allow her family to move on from its tragic loss.

“Killing him, it's not going to bring Shelby back,” Farah said. “If he gets the death penalty, do you think I'm going to go watch him get executed? No! That's going to eat me up for the rest of my life.”

If there's no plea bargain, Rhodes' trial is scheduled to start in May.

Farah wrote an opinion piece for Time magazine on the subject, titled “My Daughter's Killer Should Not Get the Death Penalty.”

Cellphone store clerk killed in robbery

James Rhodes is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 20-year-old Shelby Farah during a robbery of a Brentwood cellphone store.

Police said that after several hours of questioning, Rhodes confessed.

Police said Farah was found dead after officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at the store on Main Street near 21st Street.

Police said Rhodes pointed a gun at Shelby Farah and demanded money. They said she cooperated and after she handed him the last bit of money, he fired four rounds, killing her.

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