Posted: 1:56 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014

Man accused of killing girlfriend in 1998 to serve 2 years in prison

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

A man accused of killing the mother of his children in 1998 in Seminole County will only serve about two years in prison, WFTV learned.

Investigators said Jackie Sheehan, a 31-year-old mother of two, was killed and her body dumped in the woods by her then-boyfriend Rodney Bice.

Bice struck a deal with the state in Sheehan's death, which was considered a cold case until Bice was arrested one year ago.

The state explained Bice would be pleading no contest to aggravated battery with a sentence of 36 months with credit for time served.

After hearing the plea, Judge Debra Nelson responded, "Make me understand this plea. Is this is acceptable to (the Sheehan family)?"

The plea was something the family said they had a hard time understanding.

"I'm not sure it's acceptable to them but they understand," said attorney Stewart Stone.

"Well, make me understand," said Nelson.

Bice's best friend, who gave investigators enough information to arrest him a year ago, backed out of testifying at trial. The state said it would have lost the case without him.

Nelson suggested subpoenas or other powers of the court to get that man to testify, but the state said he told them he'd rather go to jail for contempt than get involved in the murder case.

"He got away with it.  We're doing life," said Sheehan's sister, Kathy Sheehan.

"It feels almost as bad as it did when we found out she was murdered," said Sheehan's sister, Linda Call.

Sheehan's family spoke out in front of Bice for the first time.

"Today is all about Jackie, or 'Foo' as we affectionately call her, who is the bright light in our family," Kathy Sheehan said through tears.

Investigators said Bice knew things about how Sheehan was discovered that no one else would have, including that she was found with Styrofoam covering her body, something only detectives knew at the time. 

"She didn't put herself in the woods," said Sheehan's sister, Kathy Sheehan. "It's got to be connected somehow. I don't understand the justice system at all."

Sheehan's family said they're just ready to move on.

"This hole in my heart will never heal.  It is there forever," Call said.

Even though the family is upset, they said they know the State Attorney's Office did everything it could.

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