It’s the fear of being shot out of nowhere, the way her mother was, for no reason, without a chance to react, that’s left 22-year-old Teisha Silva Rosado with what she described as PTSD. And that caused her and her five brothers and sisters to scatter from Palm Coast after their mother’s murder. Some started lives elsewhere in Florida. Teisha settled in Ohio, and had two children since, though they’ll never know their grandmother.
Teisha’s mother, Zuheili Roman Rosado, was 32 when 25-year-old Joseph Bova shot her three times on Feb. 21, 2013, at a Palm Coast gas station. He did so for no reason anyone has figured out. This afternoon a jury convicted him of first degree murder. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins sentenced him to life in prison.
Before the sentence, Perkins heard from Teisha Rosado. Four of her five brothers and sisters were in the gallery, as was her grandmother. They’d sat through the six-day trial since last Monday, an unlikely family reunion they’d preferred not to have had under the circumstances.
Teisha is the eldest of the six. There’s Kaley Roman, 21, Maria Vidal, 18, Jose Vidal, 16, and Zuheily, 13, plus a boy who’ll be 8 in October, and who was too young to remember his mother when she was killed. The youngest boy was not in the courtroom. Teisha wanted to speak to the court for the family and for her mother. It was the first time through the entire trial proceedings, going back to the September 2013 arrest of Bova, that a member of the family spoke in open court, that the life of Zuheily Roman Rosado became more than a numbered exhibit, a reference point for the prosecution, a name dropped from time to time to identify the “decedent,” as the impersonal language of court cases has it.
It was the first time that Zuheily Roman Rosado came to life for those in the courtroom who didn’t know her–and they’d been many by the last day of the trial, including several members of the 12-member jury, who returned to the courtroom after being dismissed and who heard Teisha speak.
She spoke of her graduation day when she looked out at a crowd of students, all of them with parents embracing them and celebrating the moment, but not her. “I didn’t have anyone there. She was my dad, she was my mom, she was the sole provider, our rock, the one that kept us going together, the one that worked every day.” She’d have been proud of her daughter–and daughters and sons–because she prized education, “and she was an exceptional mother. There is nothing that I could say that would be able to describe her.”She’d worked the 3-to-11 shift at the Mobil mart, Monday through Friday, not making much but enough to provide for the family. Teisha would call her mornings “to get her blessings” before work. Long after her death Teisha would call her mother’s cell number just to hear her voice on voice mail. “To this day I would say I wish I could just say hey, I’m going to call my mother, or I’m going to go visit her, and that’s not possible, because no matter how far I go, no many miles I drive, I would never be able to reach….” she didn’t finish her sentence.
To this day the finality of her mother’s absence is impossible to contend with. She and her siblings have been treated for depression. She remains paranoid. “I moved there,” she said of Ohio, “in fear of not knowing who it was or anything, trying to get away from the situation, and I’ve stayed there ever since.” She has turned into an overprotective mother, shielding her children from the unexpected, fearing that what happened to her mother could happen to her or to her children. “I’m paranoid, I now literally live paranoid, not knowing my surroundings or what can happen, something like that to my mother in 13 seconds, anything like that can happen.”
Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis had begun the trial with a dramatic silence lasting 13 seconds as he stood next to the jury, facing Teisha and her family. It was the 13 seconds it took for Bova to walk into the store, fire three shots at point blank range, then run out, leaving Zuheily Rosado to die on the floor of the store behind the counter, within those seconds. Lewis’s silence was the loudest evidence of Bova’s murder that the jury would hear. There are times in trials when specific moments win the case for one side or the other. That was one of those moments: it had won the case for the prosecution before the first words of its opening arguments had been uttered.
The defense had nothing to counter it but the cold and comatose looking Bova, who never changed expression witness after witness, never changed expression when the verdict was read, never changed expression when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and never changed expression when Teisha spoke for her family, or when she said of her mother: “I try to live through her or for her to live through me.” At that moment Bova’s victim was as if living through her, with more life than he was showing. (He declined to address the court at his sentencing, though it would have been his right to do so.)
There was a question immediately after the jury verdict whether the judge could go ahead with the sentencing. In most cases, a so-called pre-sentence investigation, or pre-sentence report, is required, gathering a history of the defendant, including a criminal history. The report is discretionary except when the defendant is younger than 18, or when the defendant is to be sentenced to a first felony offense. In those cases, pre-sentence investigations can mitigate the punishment considerably. But such investigations are not required when the defendant faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, as was the case with Bova. So after the judge and the assistant state attorneys conducted some research on the fly, they opted to go ahead with the sentencing immediately, rather than in November. The prosecution was eager to do so now because the Rosado family was in the courtroom, and would scatter again afterward.
“We will defer to the court,” Josh Mosley, the assistant public defender who represented Bova with Matt Phillips, said.
It was then, after Bova had been manacled but before he was finger-printed, ahead of his coming trip to state prison, that Teisha was called to the stand. She spoke only for a few minutes. At the end, she thanked the prosecutors. “I appreciate the job that you guys have done,” she said. And when she returned to her seat, one of her sisters took her hand and clasped it.
Only then Perkins pronounced the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bova’s family had been in the courtroom on Thursday and Friday. But they’d returned home to Connecticut after Friday’s session. Bova had no one on his side of the courtroom.