Stock Island resident Charles Miller, 43, has begun a 30-month prison term after pleading guilty to felony manslaughter for beating to death a fellow Keys man last year following an argument over beer money.
Miller admitted in court May 16 to knocking Jesus Rodriguez, 45, to the ground on July 7, 2013, and kicking him in the face before running away. He was found hiding nearby shortly after.
Rodriguez died a week later at Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, leading prosecutors to upgrade his aggravated battery charge to manslaughter.
Assistant State Attorney Carla Litrenta said Miller received a shorter-than normal-sentence due to the strength -- or lack thereof -- of the state's case. The State Attorney's Office had issues with witnesses involved and there was the possibility of Miller's attorney floating a self-defense argument.
"We came to an agreement due to the strengths and weaknesses of our case," Litrenta said.
Litrenta said Rodriguez's next of kin were notified of the plea agreement and understood the state's concerns.
According to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, Miller told detectives when he was arrested that he gave a woman he did not know $10 to buy beer at the Tom Thumb convenience store on Maloney Avenue.
When she returned without the beer, Miller said he asked for his money back and that the woman "ran over to Rodriguez, who was on a bike. Rodriguez then reportedly got off the bike and the two men started fighting."
According to the state Department of Corrections website, Miller is at the South Florida Reception Center before likely being transferred to another state prison. His current scheduled release date is Dec. 28, 2015.
Violence related to alcohol is not unusual in the Keys.
A month before Miller's arrest, Kari Dangler, now 52, of Key Largo was charged with aggravated assault for pulling a handgun on one of her roommates when he wouldn't give her vodka. She's on probation that expires in September 2015.
In July 2012, a woman known as the Sea Hag shot to death a neighbor on Conch Key when the neighbor refused to give her beer. Carolyn Dukeshire, now 54, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years.