Teen murder suspect asks judge for bond so he can finish school, play football

- The father of a 15-year-old boy lost his life after trying to sell a dirt bike on Craiglist. Police say James Beck was shot and killed in front of his son by two teenage boys who lured him to Tampa to rob him. 

Now one of his accused killers wants out of jail to play football and finish school.

Dontae Johnson penned a two-page letter to the judge in his case.

Johnson wants the judge to know he had a hard life from the start, and he hopes the judge will understand and cut him a break.

In the letter, Johnson writes about his childhood, including his mom going to jail and being homeless with his brother.

"We had to steal food to eat," Dontae Johnson said in his letter to a judge, requesting to be freed.

Johnson has been locked up since the murder of James Beck, who was killed when he tried to sell a dirt bike to someone using Craigslist.

In February, Beck posted the bike for sale and traveled to Tampa to sell it to Johnson and co-defendant, Ramontrae Williams.

Prosecutors say the teens never planned to buy it. The meeting was just a sinister ruse to rob Beck. But instead, he was shot and killed, prosecutors say by Johnson, right front of Beck's 15-year-old son.

"I have never done anything bad before to get in legal trouble. This situation is not my fault and is a mess," Johnson wrote to the judge. 

Johnson maintains his innocence and says his childhood contributed to his falling in with the wrong crowd. He says life only got tougher after his mom was incarcerated. In school, he was bullied. And later he was abused by his mother's boyfriend.

"He was always violent," Johnson's letter to the judge reads. 

Misty Winter, who is like a second mother to Johnson, says he is easily manipulated and taken advantage of. She says there is no way he was the mastermind behind this.

"The Dontae I know would not put a scheme together with someone else," said Winter.

Before his arrest, Johnson was a student at Plant High School and played on the football team. Recently, his lawyers say the 17-year-old is unfit to stand trial and believe he should get treatment.

But in Johnson's two-page letter, he asks for bond so he may, "have a chance to finish school and the football season coming up." 

"Please give me a chance to fight this on the streets," writes Johnson.

he is back in court Monday. A judge will decide whether he is unfit to stand trial.

Up Next:

Up Next

  • Teen murder suspect asks judge for bond so he can finish school, play football
  • Sheriff: Shooter targeted victims in 3 locations across 2 counties
  • Body of missing Hernando County diver found
  • Pinellas Park suspect adjusts surveillance camera after burglary, police say
  • 'Swaddle baths' help preemies feel safe, secure
  • Drones used to track red tide along Florida coast
  • Deputies: Man stole cash donation can from veterans' group
  • Propane tank explosion severely injures Brooksville woman
  • Pasco detectives want to find serial porch pirates
  • Former Plant High football player in court on domestic battery charge