More than nine years after he murdered Zuheili Roman Rosado, the mother of six, at a Palm Coast convenience store, Joseph Bova II this afternoon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Again. Bova is 34.
If the cold-blooded, execution-style murder of Rosado at the State Road 100 Mobil gas station on a February night in 2013 shattered the lives of her six children, the following years would have the effect of repeating the crime by different means as Bova, at times of his own doing, most times not, meandered in and out of the court’s docket as he was twice found incompetent to proceed to trial.
“This has bene ongoing for a while now, the family to this day is still processing or trying to grieve in different ways,” Rosado’s 25-year-old daughter, the oldest, told the court today. “The most appropriate that we feel would be life. We got our mother taken away from us at an early age. I think at any age, it is detrimental. We’re struggling very much with depression now. We’re in and out of therapy, psychologists, you know, trying to go through the grieving process. It realistically seems like it’s like never ending for us.”
The first trial in 2019 was supposed to put an end to it. It did not. The first conviction was by a jury in September 2019, which took 39 minutes to find him guilty, followed by Circuit Judge Terence Perkins’s life sentence.
Bova had sought to represent himself before that trial. Perkins didn’t allow it, ruling that it would be against Bova’s self-interest. Bova was clearly delusional, seeking to represent himself only so he could ask one particular question to a psychologist–“am I insane?” (Bova wanted to be found not guilty by reason of insanity.) Perkins told him what lawyers had already made clear to Bova: the psychologist would not say that. The psychologist could not perjure himself. His findings were clear. Bova was competent then, and at the time of the murder (though Bova said he killed Rosado to save Flagler County).
The trial proceeded to its foregone conclusion. Apparently without Bova’s knowledge–at least according to what Bova told the court–his public defenders appealed, arguing that he should have been allowed to represent himself. The Fifth District Court of Appeal agreed and ordered a new trial.
Bova then stunned the court by insisting he didn’t want it. He didn’t seem to want to be bothered away from his bunk anymore: he reportedly spends his days and nights staring at the wall. So the prosecution and Bova agreed to a plea rather than a new trial. Bova would plead to 45 years to life, and leave it up to Perkins to decide what the sentence would be.
That’s what today’s 40-minute hearing was about. That’s all it took for the conclusion that seemed apparent even in 2013, when Bova was arrested, the conclusion that was reaffirmed at various steps in the case, even by a Bova guilty plea he scrawled on a letter in 2018, and the conclusion of his first trial, to be reached.
Perkins beforehand went through a long list of questions for Bova, ensuring that he understood the case, the pitfalls and limitations of Bova representing himself, to be sure he could represent himself–and to ensure that the case wouldn’t have grounds for appeal again, at least on the judge’s handling of it. (Bova can still appeal on other grounds, for instance of he wants to appeal the severity of the sentence.)
“I’m familiar with your mental health history,” the judge told him. “Are you taking your medication?” Bova mumbled an answer, prompting another question: “Do you feel competent today?”
“Yes,” Bova said.
The judge asked him whether he thought that if he allowed lawyers to represent him, some harm would come to them. Bova said no. It wasn’t an odd question: in a court appearance several years ago, Bova claimed all sorts of harm and threats that would come to him and other officers of the court if proceedings continued.
The judge approached the question of self-representation every which way. “I can’t talk you out of that?” Perkins asked. Bova, calm, respectful, direct, seemingly on his medications, said no. The judge conceded.
Josh Mosley, his attorney, clasped his laptop, and with another attorney assisting in the case, stepped away from the podium, from Bova, from the case. The black cloud that the case had represented for Mosley all these years m might as well have vanished then and there. But the attorneys only stepped a few feet away. Either out of curiosity or obligation, or out of intimate knowledge of Bova’s unpredictability–there was always the chance he would call for attorneys again–they stayed.
Perkins and Bova had a bit of a verbal wrestling match as Perkins insisted that the defendant read his own plea agreement. Bova didn’t want to. Perkins insisted. Bova gave in. Uncharacteristically, it was the only ruffle of the hearing.
“I understand, thank you very much,” Bova said of the plea.
“Do you feel like you know what we’re doing here today, do you understand the consequences of the plea you’re going to be entering?” the judge asked him. Bova said he did.
Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis had no new evidence to present, but three of Rosado’s children addressed the court by zoom, illustrating to what extent the nine years of Bova’s case compounded the harm of the crime on the family
The oldest daughter said she and her family have conversations all the time about the matter. The family’s fear, she said, is that he would get “anything less” than the original life sentence.
Rosado’s third-oldest daughter also addressed the court. She described how every unexpected turn in the case is like 10 steps back for the family, preventing it from being at peace. A third child, the second-oldest, broke down in tears, describing her state of mind. “I am not mentally stable, I am trying to work and figure out life at this point. It’s been difficult, but here I am,” she said. “He killed my mom, or murdered my mom in cold blood. I think that that deserves life in prison. That’s the least that they can do.”
Bova never looked at the zoom screen just above his head. He declined to present any evidence or make any statements. The judge pronounced sentence.
“I find that the appropriate sentence is going to be life in prison, sir,” Perkins said, with a minimum mandatory of life as well, a technicality that had to be spoken but has no bearing on the sentence as Bova will serve it. Bova did not react. He complied with bailiffs’ directions to get his fingerprints taken yet again. He was ushered out of the courtroom by a side door he has likely used more than any Flagler County inmate in the last 10 years, and, finally, out of the court’s active docket and the Rosado children’s most anxious dreads.