Youth minister defends teen accused in Craigslist killing

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Tampa Police say 17-year-old Donte Johnson and 16-year-old Ramontrae Williams hatched a plot to rob James Beck after he and his son posted a dirt bike on Craigslist.

When Beck showed up, they say Williams grabbed the dirt bike, and Johnson pulled the trigger, killing Beck in front of his 15-year-old son.

Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren has yet to charge the teens as adults, but says charges are on the way.

"This is a really serious crime that threatens our community, that shocks the conscience of what's going on here. We are going to wait until the investigation is complete. We'll file the appropriate charges in the case to bring the perpetrators to justice," said Warren.

But youth minister Misty Winter says the Donte Johnson she knows would not have willingly participated in a murder.

"I love him. The Donate I know would never hurt anyone," Winter told FOX 13 News.

RELATED: Second teen arrested in Craigslist murder

Her tears haven't stopped since the day U.S. Marshals took Johnson away in handcuffs Wednesday. Winter says she is a like a second mother to him.

She and her husband were there when Johnson turned himself in.

"He said, 'I love you mama and I'm sorry,' and I said, 'OK buddy, be strong,'" Winter recalled.

Winter has been a youth minister for troubled teens. She met Johnson at Plant High School, where he's a lineman for the football team. She works closely with the coaches, and mentors some of the players.

She says they bonded immediately, and after he grew up in a rough part of town, but stayed out of trouble, Johnson was on the right track, focusing on school and football.

But in an instant, that all changed and, to Winter, none of it makes sense.

"The Dontae I know would not put a scheme together with someone else," she said. "I think he was manipulated. I can't imagine anything else."

Misty says her heart breaks for the Beck family and what they are going through, but she's torn.

"From the bottom of my heart, I know that he didn't know the situation he was getting into. I know it," explained a tearful Winter.