Last week, two winners split a Powerball jackpot of more than $500 million. And on Monday, the cautionary tale of past lottery winner Abraham Shakespeare played to its conclusion in a Florida courtroom.
In 2006, Abraham Shakespeare, 43, walked away with a $17 million payout from the Florida lottery. Life immediately changed for the illiterate, sometime sanitation worker from Lakeland — and not for the better. He was immediately sued by a co-worker who claimed that Shakespeare had stolen the ticket from him. Shakespeare won that suit, but soon squandered his winnings anyway, seemingly giving away his money to anyone who asked.
With his millions dwindling, Shakespeare thought that he had found a friend in Dorice “Dee Dee” Moore, 40, a self-proclaimed businesswoman and author. Moore told Shakespeare that she wanted to help him write a biography focusing on the people who took advantage of his good fortune, but prosecutors would later contend that she systematically siphoned off the last $1.3 million Shakespeare had left.
Then Shakespeare dropped out of sight. After not seeing him for six months, his family finally reported him missing on November 9, 2009. Police investigated an anonymous tip that led them to Moore. Moore had tried to hire a convicted criminal to take the blame for Shakespeare’s death. She offered to provide the gun used to kill Shakespeare and the location of the body for the hired confessor to move — in exchange, she would pay him $50,000.
Instead, Moore’s would-be patsy ratted her out to police. Investigators excavated at a home in Plant City and on January 28, 2010, found Shakespeare’s remains buried five feet deep under a layer of concrete. Shakespeare was reportedly killed at the home and then buried in a hole in the yard that Moore had her ex-husband dig with a backhoe. He later came back and filled it in. The home was subsequently purchased with a check from Shakespeare and put in the name of Moore’ ex-boyfriend.
In February of 2011 Moore was arrested and formally charged with Shakespeare’s murder. At the time of her arrest, Moore exclaimed that she was “deeply saddened for his family,” as she continued to deny any part in Shakespeare’s murder.
Last month, Dee Dee Moore’s first-degree murder trial began in Tampa. Prosecutor Jay Pruner did not seek the death penalty, but promised enough circumstantial evidence to convince the jury of Moore’s guilt. Defense attorney Byron Hileman emphasized the lack of direct evidence pointing to Moore: “There are no eyewitnesses who can testify that Ms. Moore shot and killed Mr. Shakespeare, or was present when he was shot and killed, or had any part carrying out his murder,” he said.
Jurors would soon hear from a prosecution financial analyst who explained how Moore transferred the money from Shakespeare, who died virtually penniless.
Greg Smith, a friend of Moore’s, wore a wire during a 2010 meeting in a Lakeland hotel where Moore typed out a letter to Shakespeare’s mother as if the letter was from Shakespeare himself. The letter said that Shakespeare had left town to avoid bills and a possible domestic violence charge: “I like my life too much to sit in jail.” Smith said he dropped the letter at Shakepeare’s mother’s house, but that it didn’t work to convince the family that Shakespeare was still alive.
Other witnesses said Moore tried to throw Shakespeare’s family off the scent by sending text messages with his phone, even sending Shakepeare’s son $5,000 in cash on his birthday.
But perhaps the most damning piece of circumstantial evidence was a Walmart surveillance tape showing Moore using cash to buy gloves, duct tape and plastic sheeting. Similar items were found at the Plant City home where Shakespeare was buried.
Jurors would not hear from Moore herself as the defendant chose not to testify or call any witnesses in her own defense. Although she didn’t testify, Moore did make herself heard during the trial complaining loudly about witnesses: “I’m tired of these people lying… This is my life,” she exclaimed once after the jury had left. Moore’s theatrical reactions throughout the trial drew rebukes from Judge Emmitt Battles. The raucous atmosphere extended outside the well of the court too: at one point, Judge Battles ejected a Moore supporter from the gallery for allegedly threatening witnesses. Jurors ultimately asked for a bailiff escort into the courtroom when supporters from both sides made the panel uncomfortable.
On Monday, jurors received the case for deliberation — and it didn’t take long for them to reach verdict. After just three hours of deliberation, they concluded that the Moore was indeed guilty of Abraham Shakespeare’s murder.
Judge Battles sentenced Moore immediately to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Battles characterized the defendant as “probably the most manipulative person this court has seen.”
In the end, Abraham Shakespeare’s murder was a direct result of winning the lottery. The temptation of the money brought out the worst, not in Shakespeare, but in those around him. Prosecutor Jay Pruner wouldn’t talk to reporters outside of court, but summed it up well in his closing argument: “It wasn’t the taking of the money that was the motive. It was the keeping. She knew if Abraham was left alive there would be a fight. Greed flowed through her veins.”