The case of

Tiffany Raymond Eunick

Victim

Tiffany Raymond Eunick

Victim Race

African-American

Victim Date of Birth

1992-08-26

Victim Age

6

Date Reported

1999-07-28

Date of Death

1999-07-28

Case Status

Closed

Incident Location

Broward County, Florida, USA

Body Location

Broward County, Florida, USA

Date of Conviction

March 9, 2001 but it was overturned in 2004

Body Discovered Date

1999-07-28

Murderer

Lionel Alexander Tate

Who Was Tiffany Eunick?

Tiffany Ramond Eunick was born on August 26, 1992. As she was only six years old at the time of her death, there’s not much information available on her before she died. Her parents had separated at some point in her life, and in 1999, her mom, Deweese Eunick-Paul, reconnected with an old friend.

The name of this old friend was Kathleen Grossett-Tate. The two women were divorced and had children to look after. Kathleen had a 12-year-old son named Lionel. On the surface, it seemed that Lionel and Tiffany got along and they enjoyed each other’s company. Kathleen and Deweese would help each other out with childcare whenever it was needed and everyone seemed happy.

On July 28, 1999, Kathleen was babysitting Tiffany Eunick. She made the two children dinner and left them downstairs while she went upstairs to nap. Kathleen later said that she did hear some weird noises, but instead of going downstairs to investigate, she shouted at the pair to keep it down.

Around 45 minutes later, Lionel went to his mom and told her that Tiffany Eunick wasn’t breathing.

Victim Was Found Dead/Start of The Crime

After Lionel had informed Kathleen that Tiffany Eunick wasn’t breathing, she ran downstairs to find the 6-year-old girl lying on the living room floor. Kathleen dialed 911 and began CPR, but it was no use. When paramedics arrived, they took over CPR but Tiffany was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.

The Crime Description

At the time of the murder, Lionel Tate weighed around 170 pounds, and he was over 6 feet tall. 6-year-old Tiffany Eunick weighed just 48 pounds.

Lionel has claimed that on that evening, he and Tiffany were playing around. He was a big fan of wrestling, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as his favorite wrestler. Lionel said that he decided to recreate some of the professional wrestling moves that he’d seen The Rock do on TV with Tiffany Eunick. He had Tiffany in a headlock when her head smashed the side of a table. Tiffany cried out, rolled around on the floor, and urinated. Instead of telling his mother what had happened, Lionel went back to watching TV. When he realized Tiffany wasn’t moving, he finally woke Kathleen.

However, experts have said this isn’t an accurate retelling of the events surrounding Tiffany Eunick ‘s murder. They said that the brutal beating lasted around five minutes, and the force was equal to falling from a three-story building.

Tiffany Eunick suffered more than 35 injuries, including a fractured skull, broken ribs, bleeding on the brain, dozens of bruises, hemorrhaged kidneys, and a lacerated liver. A section of her brain had been flattened and a part of her liver was floating freely around her body.

In short, these injuries couldn’t have been caused by simply smashing her head off the table.

Suspect or Convicted Killer Details

Lionel Alexander Tate was born on January 30, 1987, on a naval base in Illinois to his parents, John Tate and Kathleen Grossett-Tate. They divorced before he was one year old, and Lionel’s mom remained his primary carer. However, due to her career, Kathleen had to leave Lionel in the care of various relatives while she worked. At this time, Lionel’s teachers said that he was a playful and intelligent boy, but he seemed to crave attention.

In 1996, Lionel was sent to live in Mississippi so Kathleen could get her Florida Highway Patrol Trooper license. When she’d achieved this, she brought Lionel home to live with her again, but Lionel had changed. Physically, he was towering over her, and he weighed over 150 pounds. In school, he was known as a bully. His classmates would refuse to sit next to him during lessons, and they wouldn’t play with him in the playground because he would bully anyone and everyone he could. Kathleen was informed of this behavior, but she would come to the school in her trooper uniform to intimidate Lionel’s teachers and classmates. He was never punished for this behavior by his mother.

Investigation Details

When police first arrived at the scene and examined Tiffany Eunick, they thought that she had died accidentally. At around 11 pm on July 28, 1999, Kathleen called Deweese to ask her if Tiffany had asthma as she wasn’t breathing. Investigators thought Tiffany had had an asthma attack or maybe an allergic reaction to something else. However, Deweese said Tiffany didn’t have asthma or any other known allergies. It wasn’t until the autopsy came back two days later that they realized the full extent of the 6-year-old girl’s injuries.

After her 35 injuries were discovered, police knew that it hadn’t been an accident. They were now dealing with homicide and had one suspect in mind; Lionel Tate. He had been alone with her in the hours leading up to her death, and he’d been the one who’d informed his mom that Tiffany Eunick wasn’t breathing.

Lionel was questioned by law enforcement, and he stuck to the same story, that they’d been wrestling and Tiffany had smashed her head on a coffee table. But her injuries said otherwise, and Lionel was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Trial

It was decided that Lionel would be charged as an adult for the murder of Tiffany Eunick. If he’d been charged as a juvenile, the time spent in a juvenile prison wouldn’t have been severe enough for someone who had taken the life of another. The prosecution didn’t believe that Tiffany’s murder was premeditated. Still, according to Florida law at the time, all that was needed to be convicted of felony murder was intentional aggravated child abuse which had led to death. During his murder trial, Judge Joel T. Lazarus read out the terms needed to meet this law.

Lionel’s defense attorneys pushed the idea that Lionel was recreating the moves he’d seen by professional wrestlers on TV. Therefore, it wasn’t Lionel’s fault; it was theirs.

The prosecution offered Lionel a plea deal. If he entered a guilty plea to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, he would only be sentenced to three years and not a mandatory life sentence. However, Kathleen told Lionel to turn this down, and he instead pled not guilty to the first-degree murder charge. This turned out to be bad advice.

Verdict

On March 9, 2001, 14-year-old Lionel Tate was found guilty of first-degree murder, and that carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After his conviction, the prosecution openly joined the plea for leniency in sentencing, and in 2004, this was overturned on the basis that his mental competency hadn’t been evaluated beforehand. Lionel was released on one year’s house arrest and ten years probation.

However, on May 18, 2006, Lionel was given a 30-year prison sentence for probation violation during the armed robbery of a Domino’s pizza deliveryman and a gun possession charge. He pled no contest in 2008, and he was handed a concurrent 10-year prison term for the armed robbery charge and gun possession.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Lionel Tate doing now?

He is currently imprisoned at the Charlotte Correctional Institution and will be released in 2031.

How old is Lionel Tate now?

Lionel Tate is currently 35 years old.

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