Oh Lawdy! Halp Me Jeebus!
An 18-year-old woman was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in state prison for using a dating app to set up a robbery that resulted in the shooting of another teen.
As Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman read the sentence, Ky'Andrea Cook's mother dropped to the floor of the courtroom and wailed. The howls of grief from Cook's mother were so loud that the judge had to later restate the sentencing for the clerk: 20 years for on a carjacking charge, 15 years for attempted carjacking with a deadly weapon and 15 years for a battery felony. The sentences are concurrent.
As part of her plea agreement, a conspiracy charge was dropped. That charge carried a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The plea didn't challenge prosecutors' assertions in March, when she was a Mainland High School student, Cook lured Perry Nida, a 27-year-old Palm Coast man, to a meeting in South Daytona where he expected to sell her some marijuana and then they would have sex. Nida brought 17-year-old Immanuel Pursel from Palm Coast, who ended up shot by Cook's boyfriend who was waiting to rob them, investigators said.
Cook was arrested April 27 in connection to two violent carjackings and the March shooting of the teen.
Detectives believe Cook and several accomplices used the “MeetMe” phone app to lure victims to an area where they would be carjacked, South Daytona police Lt. Dan Dietrich said at the time.
When Nida and Pursel went to meet Cook the night of March 22 in South Daytona, Nida became suspicious and hid the marijuana in a bush before picking Cook up, the report states. When she got into the truck, Cook told Nida she had to go get money, and when she returned, a man with a mask got into the backseat.
At first, the man pointed a gun with a laser sight at Nida and told him to get out of the pickup, police said. But then Pursel pushed him out of the truck. The unidentified man then fired off two rounds, one of which struck Pursel in the stomach.
Tuesday morning, Judge Foxman acknowledged that Cook, who wrote in a letter to the judge that she is an honor student, did not pull the trigger during the incident and that the victim luckily survived.
“This was intentional. It was an orchestrated ambush. And you are a main part of that,” Foxman said. “For that I’m going to adjudicate you guilty for all three charges and sentence you to 20 years in state prison.”
With that, Cook's mother let out a howling wail and sank to the floor of Courtroom 6 at the S. James Foxman Justice Center. And while Cook had retained composure throughout the proceeding, she lost it then.
Tears streamed from Cook’s eyes as she called out to her mother, Lashawnda Ponder. She fell to the ground and sheriff's deputies tried to help her back up as other courtroom personnel attended to her mother.
Pursel's mother sat stoically as the emotional scene unfolded.
Earlier in the sentencing hearing, Vickie Arends told the judge that a bullet remains embedded in her son's pelvis and he will never be the same.
"She opened up the door and said that she was sorry," Arends said, relaying information from her son. Arends said the first bullet went through her son’s hat and into the frame of the truck.
“The second bullet went through my son," Arends said. "The bullet went through his stomach, through his liver, through his intestines and now rests in the pelvic area. It missed his heart by a half an inch.”
Doctors have told her it would be more dangerous to remove the bullet.
Prosecutors said though Cook has given them the name of the possible shooter, no other suspects have been charged. Arends said Cook could have cooperated more quickly.
"It broke my heart to know that it was somebody that was so young,” Arends told the judge about Cook. “But at the same time, I look at what it’s done to my son. He’s never going to be himself again. Had she come forward and been honest from the get-go, we might be looking at the shooter here instead of an 18-year-old girl."
Cook's public defender, Frank Scott, said he was "caught off guard" by the 20-year sentence.
"It was tough to see a young girl like that throw her life away making bad choices," he said.
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