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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Sentencing hearings are underway for a teen that was convicted of murder earlier this year.
D’Marcus Tucker, 18, was back in court Wednesday, waiting to be sentenced for the murder of aspiring pastry chef Nicole Franco. He was also convicted of burglary and theft.
In the summer of 2014, Tucker broke into Franco’s apartment to steal her wallet and stabbed her to death when she unexpectedly woke up during the burglary.
Dr. Carol Wartenberg, a school psychologist who evaluated Tucker after he had behavior problems in school, testified that he had the coping skills of a kindergartner.
“What I saw him as having the most difficulty with at the time was his managing and controlling his behavior, particularly his anger,” Wartenberg said.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Michael Simones said that Tucker had been abused as a child.
“He told me his father would punch him in the face, and hit him with an extension cord,” Simones testified.
Simones said child welfare officials in Texas removed Tucker from his father’s custody and he was returned to his mother in Broward County.
Nicole Franco’s parents didn’t want to hear about child abuse or behavior disorders.
“All this going on in here now has nothing to do with anything. He knew what he was doing,” said Teri Franco, Nicole‘s mom.
“He went right into the kitchen and got a knife,” said Steve Franco, Nicole‘s dad. “If his father beat him he should have gone and killed his father. This is all about his rights, but what about my daughter? What about my daughters suffering? What about my daughters rights?”
Franco was the youngest of five children. She moved to South Florida from New Jersey to attend culinary school at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.
“The family is now vindicated,” prosecutor Maria Schneider said in August following the conviction. “Their lovely daughter, of course, can’t be brought back to them. But they, at least, have that sense of closure of justice being done.”
The trial hinged on DNA evidence as Tucker’s skin cells were found on Franco’s bed comforter, prosecutors argued. They also presented a videotape of his confession.
Franco was just 19 when she was killed.
Judge Tim Bailey continued the sentencing hearing to November 30th, due to witness scheduling issues.
Florida law requires that adults convicted of first-degree murder be sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole, giving the judge no discretion.
The US Supreme Court, however, ruled that juveniles who commit murder must be given a hearing and the judge may reduce the minimum mandatory sentence if he chooses.
Tucker was only 15 when he committed the murder.