State drops murder charge against elderly woman

Headline Goes Here

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A 98-year-old woman no longer faces second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of her nephew.

Amanda Stevenson has been in custody since September 2011 -- one day after her nephew, 53-year-old John Rice (pictured, below), was shot and killed -- but was found incompetent to stand trial in July 2012.

Stevenson had remained in the St. Johns County jail until May 20, when the Department of Children and Families took charge of her. She's since been civilly committed.

The state filed a notice Oct. 1 announcing the 2011 murder charge was dropped.

DOCUMENT:  State of Florida vs. Amanda Stevenson

Crystal Rice-Mack, whose father Stevenson was accused of killing, said she's still trying to cope with her dad's death.

"I can't bring him back. He means everything," she said. "You never really get past it when there's not closure. It's like an open wound that has a scab on it, and sometimes it scrapes away and then it starts to bleed again, so to speak, and that's what my heart feels like."

Rice's daughter said he was a good man who always did the right thing.

"Never drank or smoke a day in his life," she said. "He was just an honest man who believed in earning a good living, and he did that for himself."

Rice-Mack does not believe Stevenson pulled the trigger, but said if investigators believe she did it, the court should not have dropped the murder charge.

"I've never known of anyone being able to kill someone and then get away with it," she said. "I think at her age, yeah, she may suffer from some dementia age-related. However, in any case, I don't believe that she is incompetent."

Rice-Mack believes Stevenson was set up by someone who took advantage of her mental state.

"At the end of the day, I always say this: God handles all. He does so though it looks like whoever is getting away with it now, it'll come to light, and I hold onto that and I have faith in that."

Because Stevenson is no longer being prosecuted, her retirement benefits have been restored. She could now be placed in a secure long-term facility rather than a state-run facility.

According to DCF, Stevenson will not be released immediately. A spokesman said experienced mental health professionals need to do a review to determine whether Stevenson poses a danger to herself or others. That will determine whether she is released from DCF custody, the spokesman said.

He said if it's determined by professionals that she would pose a danger, DCF will then need to take appropriate steps to get court approval for involuntary commitment.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.