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Tampa man sentenced to life in 2021 murder of nursing student

Inside a packed courtroom on the top floor of the Hillsborough County Courthouse, about 20 members of Savannah Mathis’ family waited quietly. They donned shirts bearing the 21-year-old nursing student’s smiling face and carried life-size cardboard cutouts of her.

Earlier this month, a of first-degree murder in Mathis’ slaying. The verdict carries a mandatory life sentence, which rendered Thursday’s sentencing hearing a formality.

On Dec. 1, 2021, was driving her sister around Tampa’s West Riverfront neighborhood. As their Nissan Altima pulled out of the neighborhood, Scott walked outside a nearby home and opened fire on the sisters, fatally shooting Mathis.

More than two years after her murder, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Samantha Ward sentenced Scott, 22, to life in prison without parole.

He stood motionless in front of the bench after hearing the sentence.

Mathis’ mother, LaMaria Smith, said she forgave Scott for taking her daughter from her. She still has trouble referring to her in the past tense, Smith said in a statement read to the court.

“Savannah Mathis will forever be 21,″ she said. “She was so young and full of life and dreams.”

While working Scott’s case, Hillsborough State Attorney Suzy Lopez has grown close with the Mathis family, who she said has “gone through hell” over the past two years.

“This community will not tolerate gun violence,” she said, addressing reporters in the courthouse after the sentencing. “Those bad actors — those people who are committing these senseless crimes — will be held accountable for their actions no matter what their age is.”

A memorial for 21-year-old Savannah Mathis is seen at BJs Alabama BBQ, her family’s restaurant where she worked, in Tampa on Dec. 8, 2021.

Over , Scott’s lawyers argued that Scott, who was 20 at the time of the shooting, acted in self-defense when he fired 12 shots at the women’s car while standing outside the home of a friend he was visiting. Scott told police that there was another car in the same intersection at the time and that he thought someone in that car opened fire on him.

But surveillance video that captured the incident doesn’t show anyone firing first at Scott.

Bullets struck Mathis in the head and abdomen. Her sister Nena, then 19 years old, was riding in the passenger seat. She was also shot, but she survived.

Surrounded by family, Savannah Mathis was removed from life support at Tampa General Hospital three days later.

Nena Mathis took the stand during Scott’s trial. She repeated the last words she spoke to her sister and showed the jury a scar on her leg from the bullet wound.

Nena Mathis speaks on the witness stand during the trial in the murder of Savannah Mathis at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa on Feb. 27.

On Thursday, Nena Mathis wore a shirt with her sister’s face on the front. Across the back, it read, “Justice has been served.”

In a prepared statement she read to the court, Nena Mathis addressed Scott.

“Your family can visit you in jail. My family has to visit a graveyard to visit Savannah,” she said. “Be glad that you’re sitting on that side of the courtroom.”

After the shooting, their car crashed into a wall near the corner of Grace Street and Delaware Avenue, where it was found by police just after 8 p.m.

About 20 minutes later, police arrested Alfonso Evans, now 31, in a nearby alley. He told investigators he hadn’t started shooting until he heard Scott fire his pistol.

Scott was a few weeks later.

Scott is seen discharging a firearm and getting into the rear seat of a silver Toyota Corolla before driving off, according to surveillance video shown during the trial.

In an interview with police, Scott identified himself as the shooter in the video footage. Investigators found a fingerprint on the side of the car that matched Scott, court records show.

Prosecutors said the surveillance footage shows Scott tossing a weapon under a car before he fled.

Investigators also found a 9mm Shadow Systems handgun and matching shell casings at the scene. Fingerprints left on the gun matched Scott.

previously told the Tampa Bay Times that he came from a close-knit and supportive family. His family members present Thursday declined to comment on his sentencing.