ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - An Orange County man who fatally shot two young men was supposed to go to trial Monday, but instead plead guilty to two lesser charges.
Larry Romero shot and killed 22-year-old Deangelo Cox and 21-year-old Nick Lewis inside his Taft home in 2013. It's believed the men were trying to talk to Romero about ending a neighborhood feud.
Romero, who was facing first-degree murder charges, listened to the emotional testimony from the victims' families at his sentencing hearing Monday.
"I am hurt in a way I never thought I would be hurt. Nick was my only child," Nick Lewis' mother Newanda Hodge said.
The 40-year-old accepted a plea deal in an unexpected move just before the start of his trial. He plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Cox and Lewis, who grew up together and spent time working at a local Boys and Girls Club.
"He was the soul of our family. He was a good kid, I never had problems with him. Nothing like that. I don't understand," Deangelo Cox's mother Sherlie Clark said.
Prosecutors said Romero was a known drug dealer in the community and had an ongoing feud with people in the neighborhood. They said the young men may have gone to Romero's home to make peace.
In court, family members looked at Romero and demanded to know why the victims were killed.
"As a father, why couldn't you come and talk to me? Tell me 'Sir, I have a problem. I have a problem with your son.' I could have fixed that for you, man," Deangelo Cox's father William Cox said.
"I'm really sorry, sir. I'm really sorry," Romero said.
Romero was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murders.