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Justice not served family says in murder sentence for man who fatally shot girlfriend in St Paul

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As much as the family of Latifa Tasha Minor Brown wanted to tell her murderer what they thought of him, they also sought to convey what he had taken away.

The 31-year-old had always desired to be a mother, and when she finally gave birth to her “miracle baby” after five miscarriages, she devoted her life to him. His father, Brown’s long-term lover, fatally shot her in their St. Paul home in January when he was 1 year old.

Now, Brown will not be able to kiss her kid on his first day of school or watch him become a man, Brown’s family stated before her Thursday sentence, and the youngster will not have his mother in his life.

Buffy Brown, Latifa’s sister, said, “When he smiles, you see Latifa.” The youngster, who is now 2 years old, requests to see videos and photographs of his mother; he gestures to the sky and blows kisses while saying, “Hi, mama, I love you,” she added.

She expressed concern for the day when he would be old enough to realize that “his father took his mother.”

Mark Antonio Bell Jr., 36, apologized for his sentence on Thursday. He said that what he did was a mistake and an act of cowardice and that he acted in self-defense. He said that he had made a poor choice and wished he had made a better one. In September, he pled guilty to second-degree intentional murder, not premeditated.

However, Brown’s relatives underlined that Bell could have left her alone by walking away. In the courtroom, they referred to him as a coward and a monster.

And the 20-year sentence given to Bell? Not nearly enough, according to Brown’s family.

Bell told police that after the pair went home from a bar on the morning of January 22, he took one of Brown’s pistols and they fought. According to the criminal complaint, he said that Brown, who was permitted to carry a firearm, “pulled a pistol on him.”

According to the complaint, he said that he heard Brown’s revolver click as she aimed it at him, at which moment he discharged the gun he had seized and directed away from Brown. He told authorities that he didn’t believe he hit Brown, but she collapsed and he drove her to the hospital.

Brown died at the North End crime site.

According to the complaint, a neighbor presented police with a tape of Brown and Bell engaged in “a loud, heated altercation.” “ (Brown) frequently warned Bell to avoid her. At one point, the neighbor demanded that Bell leave immediately. After more argumentation, (Brown) cursed at Bell. After a loud gunshot, (Brown’s) voice is no longer audible.”

Buffye Brown said that her sister was in a relationship with Bell for eleven years and that Bell assaulted her, but she was unable to get her sister to leave. Bell said briefly in court that he did not abuse Brown.

According to a 2018 police complaint, Brown stated to authorities that Bell beat her and threatened to murder her and her sister. The city attorney’s office said they lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute him.

By his plea agreement, Bell’s sentence was a downward deviation from state sentencing standards for the term. In Minnesota, most offenders spend two-thirds of their sentence in jail and the remainder on supervised release, meaning Bell might serve 13 years.

Kelinsia Harris, Brown’s cousin, said, “No justice was done for her at all.”

Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Ambrosia Mosby-Velasco said they did not take the plea deal lightly, but had to consider several factors, including the lack of legal evidence of premeditation, Bell’s guilty plea to the highest count of intentional murder, a witness’s statement that he saw Brown point a gun at Bell, the absence of Bell’s DNA on the gun’s handgrip, and Bell’s cooperation with the investigation.

Mosby-Velasco said that if the matter had gone to trial, Bell’s lawyers may have pleaded self-defense and he may have been found not guilty.

Judge Shawn Bartsh said to Brown’s family, “There is no amount of time that I could give this guy that would be genuinely fair.” “Justice would entail the return of your sister.”

The couple’s kid was not in the house when Brown was murdered. That night, Bell’s mother was caring for her grandchild. Since then, she has had temporary custody of him.

Brown’s father and Buffye Brown have filed court filings seeking custody in response to her complaint. They presently receive visitation with the kid every other weekend for three hours, per court order.

Bartsh has not been engaged in the current custody dispute, but she expressed her hope that both families can find a way to put the kid first during Thursday’s sentence. Bartsh said that he “deserves to grow up surrounded by as much affection as possible.” Bell said he agrees and desires for his kid to spend sufficient time with Brown’s family.

Bartsh informed Brown’s family that her father died when she was 11 years old.

“As a young kid who grew up without a father, please do not allow her sad death define her for you or her son,” Bartsh added, urging them to preserve Brown’s legacy.

Thursday, those who loved Brown shared her tale in court.

She adored cooking, was goofy, and “radiated so much love,” according to Buffye Brown. Latifa Brown went all out to decorate a “Baby Shark”-themed party for her son’s first birthday since he likes the song. Buffy questioned why she had done so much, stating that the kid would not remember anything.

“I will,” Latifa said, as recalled by her sister in court.

She and her sister would stay up late, laughing and conversing on the phone. Now, Buffye Brown says she can’t sleep, and when she does, she gets dreams – Latifa is weeping, and Buffye says she’s trying to help her by running quickly to her.

But Buffye Brown said that she would not give Bell any more authority since he did not take her away. “God summoned her home,” she said.

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