Saturday, November 15, 2008

Father's imprisonment took toll on Dillard High shooting suspect


Teah Wimberly was a musically gifted daddy's girl.

The 15-year-old played four instruments and joined the Dillard High School marching band in hopes of one day playing in front of her father, Jevon Wimberly, an aspiring comedian and the girl's primary caregiver.

But Wimberly's goal was dashed after her father was jailed in 2006 for attempted murder. His sudden absence -- worsened by his refusal to let her visit -- sent Wimberly into a depression and triggered a troubling change in her behavior, court documents revealed.

Letters from family and friends hint that Wimberly's life went into a gradual tailspin that ended Wednesday, when she was arrested and charged with fatally shooting her longtime friend, 15-year-old Amanda Collette, in a school hallway.

''I wanted her to feel pain like me,'' Wimberly told Fort Lauderdale police after her arrest. Broward County prosecutors said Thursday they will charge her -- as an adult -- with first-degree murder.

According to friends, the girls had exchanged a series of emotional text messages Tuesday. Among them: messages from Wimberly professing her love for Collette and her rejection of her advances.

Wimberly had faced rejection before.

Her mother, Char Merritt Aukland, entered the U.S. Army after the girl was born and left Wimberly in the care of her paternal grandparents. Aukland, who now lives in Virginia, signed over temporary guardianship of her daughter to the grandmother in 1998 and reappeared in the child's life in 2001.

However, she has not maintained a relationship with Wimberly, who ''rarely visits her mother,'' court records said.


Though Wimberly's grandparents were an important part of her life -- they took her into their Fort Lauderdale home after her father was arrested -- court records show there was an inseparable bond between the girl and her father that, when cut, scarred her deeply. Jevon Wimberly is serving a 25-year sentence.

''Wimberly constantly asks when her father will be home, but no one has the answer at this time,'' wrote Cynthia Thomas, a sentencing consultant who interviewed members of Wimberly's family a year ago about how her life was affected by her father's imprisonment.

``The Wimberlys are concerned for [her] as she has been affected terribly by her father's absence.''

Wimberly's grandfather, John Wimberly, is a retired assistant supervisor for the state Department of Juvenile Justice who had more than 30 years of experience dealing with troubled youths.

Wimberly's grandmother, Shirley Wimberly, is a retired supervisor of the Broward County Office of Information Technology, where she worked for 30 years.

Several letters written by family, friends and clergy -- meant to sway the judge during Jevon Wimberly's sentencing for second-degree attempted murder on Dec. 7, 2007 -- all stress how his absence affected Wimberly.

The formerly promising teen became an uncontrollable behavior problem for her grandparents, according to court files.

The records do not explain the nature of the behavior problem, but they state that even neighbors noticed the change.

Wimberly, who barely knew her estranged mother, became so distraught that she was taken to a psychologist to help her cope, court documents state.

In a Nov. 25, 2007, letter to Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy III, Wimberly pleaded for mercy for her father. Included were pictures of Jevon and Teah Wimberly that displayed how close the two were.

In most of the pictures, the father was smiling as he embraced his only daughter.

''I want to take the time out to say I really love my daddy. All my life I've had my daddy and our bond is really strong,'' Wimberly wrote. ``When I found out he was gone I was really sad. We mean the world to each other, and I really want him back.''

Jevon Wimberly, known on stage as ''J Baby,'' was an up-and-coming comedian who often headlined shows at the Miami Improv.

He was Wimberly's primary caretaker since college, court documents show.

Wimberly developed a love for music and played the bassoon, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone and tuba. Her father was very supportive, becoming a band parent and active PTA member who chaperoned field trips and performances, court documents said.

''He hasn't missed a musical,'' Wimberly's grandfather wrote to Murphy.


In 2006, Jevon Wimberly was engaged, being scouted for a part in a sitcom and had just bought a two-bedroom town house in Lauderhill when his future was derailed by gunfire.

On Oct. 10, police reports state, Wimberly shot a man in the shoulder over a dispute involving a bag of missing DVDs.

Ever since, at Wimberly's request, his daughter was not allowed to see him and had never visited him in jail or since he was moved to a North Florida prison, ''because he does not want her to be subjected to the surroundings of the jail,'' wrote Thomas, the sentencing consultant.

They did speak on the phone frequently, however, records show.

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