The Westmorland GazetteTwo life terms for Florida killer (From The Westmorland Gazette)

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Two life terms for Florida killer

The Westmorland Gazette: Shawn Tyson at his murder trial in Sarasota County Court in Florida (AP) Shawn Tyson at his murder trial in Sarasota County Court in Florida (AP)

A teenager has been given two life sentences after being found guilty of murdering two British tourists in Florida.

James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, were gunned down by Shawn Tyson after they drunkenly walked into a public housing estate in the Newtown area of Sarasota in the early hours of April 16 last year.

The killer, who turned 17 last week, will not be eligible for parole after being convicted of two counts of first degree murder at Sarasota County Courthouse. The teenager's mother Kenyatta Whitfield mouthed "I love you" to her son as he was led away.

It took the jury of eight women and four men about two hours to convict Tyson of murder in the first degree of both men. Wearing an orange shirt and brown tie, he sat emotionless as the verdict was read out to the court, as did his mother in the public gallery.

A statement from Mr Cooper's parents was read to the court by prosecutor Karen Fraivillig, in which they said they had celebrated his 25th birthday three days before his death.

"Anyone who has lost a child will know there are no words which can express the despair, disbelief and desolation," they said. "We will miss him every minute of every day in a home that now feels empty."

Joe Hallett, a friend of Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper, read a statement to the court. Addressing Tyson personally, he said: "It was through your deadly action that you have taken us all on a journey to hell during the last 12 months." He added that the men were "decent human beings". "They would judge a person by what is on the inside."

The court was also played a video made by Mr Kouzaris's parents. In it his father Peter Kouzaris, with his wife by his side, said: "We have suffered and continue to suffer," and added that said his son had been "needlessly taken from us in a moment of madness".

Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper drunkenly walked into a rundown area of Sarasota in the early hours of April 16. They were confronted by Tyson, who tried to rob them. When they had no money, he told them: "Well, since you ain't got no money, I got something for your ass." The men pleaded to go home, saying they were drunk, but the teenager, then 16, shot one then the other.

When they were found, both still had their wallets and cash - Mr Cooper had 63.45 dollars and Mr Kouzaris had 62.05 dollars.

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