Victim's family responds to rapist's re-sentencing
By: Haley Hinds, FOX 13 News
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VALRICO (FOX 13) - It's been nearly eight years since a high school senior was brutally attacked and raped outside a Valrico library. She's had to fight to survive and has been left in a wheelchair, unable to speak.
Now, the once-young man convicted of the attack could have his sentence reduced as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding cases of juvenile offenders.
Queena Vuong had her entire life ahead of her. She was accepted to the University of Florida and was days away from graduation. For whatever reason, Morris targeted her, that night in 2008. While she's continuing to fight through recovery, the thought that the courts could go easier on her attacker, is a tough blow for her family
Videos on the "Join Queena" Facebook page show Queena's burning spirit. They show her wiggling and lifting her legs. They show her slowly taking seven steps in a row. Considering what she's been through, even one is a miracle.
"We were to expect her to be in a vegetative state and not live very long and here she is smiling and laughing and inspiring and a person full of life," her sister Anna Vuong said.
In April 2008, two days after her 18th birthday, Queena was brutally attacked outside Bloomingdale Library. Kendrick Morris, who was 16 at the time, raped and beat Queena so violently, he robbed her of the ability to see, talk or walk on her own.
Donations from www.JoinQueena.com help pay for treatment, which costs $80,000 out of pocket each year. Her family says the donations have slowed over the years.
Morris was sentenced to 65 years for that crime and for raping another woman. But, a U.S. Supreme Court decision now says sentencing juveniles to life or lengthy prison times is cruel and unusual.
So, the now-24-year-old Morris, who appeared in court Wednesday, will be re-sentenced, forcing Queena's family to relive painful memories.
"I know he was very young when he committed the crime, but to the degree of brutality that he executed, it was not a child's mind," Anna Vuong said. "It's like to try to put it behind you a little bit, but it always comes back and you have to relive everything. That's difficult."
Defense Attorney Anthony Rickman, who's not involved with the case, added some insight to what this means. He said a re-sentencing won't necessarily result in less time in prison. In fact, it could be more.
"He's asked for it," Rickman said. "He may very well get it based on how heinous this crime is, based on the lives he affected, not just this poor girl he brutalized but also her family. I would not be surprised if he gets sentenced to life in prison."
Queena's family plans to be there in court to remind the judge of the other life sentence.
"I feel like my sister was served a life sentence against her will and not by choice and she was robbed of her entire life," Anna Vuong said. "I wish she was given a choice to get less than a life sentence."