Florida Man Apologizes for Killing 13-Year-Old Boy During Sleepover, Gets Life Sentence

Shortly before 21-year-old Corey Johnson was sentenced to life in prison for murder and attempted murder, he apologized for the 2018 killing of his 13-year-old friend.

Then 17, Johnson attended a sleepover after a birthday party for Jovanni Sierra, who had just turned 13. Johnson had gone to the party with Kyle Banecroft, the older brother of Sierra's best friend Dane Banecroft. The sleepover took place at the Banecroft brothers' home, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Johnson had recently converted to Islam and had watched numerous online propaganda videos of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Court records said Johnson told the police that Sierra upset him when he made statements calling people "gods" that were offensive to his new beliefs.

The records said Johnson carried out the attacks when everyone had gone to sleep. According to the Post, Johnson started with Sierra, stabbing him and slashing his throat. The noise from the attack caught the attention of Elaine Simon, mother of the Banecroft brothers.

When Simon went to check on the boys, Johnson stabbed her multiple times, shortly after stabbing 13-year-old Dane Banecroft, who tried to save his mother. The Post reported that Johnson and Kyle Bancroft had been friends since daycare, but Dane Banecroft, now 17, told the jury that Johnson seemed "almost happy" as he stabbed him.

Johnson then hid in a closet as police arrived. According to records, police needed to use tear gas to subdue him.

A jury found Johnson guilty of one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder at his November 2020 trial.

The Post reported that Johnson's attorneys requested a 40-year prison sentence instead of a life sentence. But Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo said, "I do not think rehabilitation is likely" based on his willingness to kill for his extremist views.

WPEC, a West Palm Beach TV station, reported that Sierra's mother and grandmother testified at the Thursday sentencing hearing. Karen Sierra-Velez, the young boy's mother, said, "I wasn't ready to say goodbye."

According to the station, Johnson took the stand to apologize.

"I took the life of an innocent 13-year-old boy," he said. "I really, truly am sorry, especially when he had been so nice and generous to me."

In addition to apologizing, Johnson also denounced ISIS, according to the Post. During the trial, the defense unsuccessfully argued that Johnson was manipulated by the extremist propaganda and should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The WPEC report said it took the jury about four hours to decide Johnson was guilty and sane.

Dr. Michael Scott, a neuropsychologist, told the court on Thursday that while Johnson exhibited "delayed maturity and severe mental illness," he had above-average intelligence, the Post reported.

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A Florida man was sentenced to life in prison for killing his 13-year-old friend and attempting to kill two others in 2018. Stock Image/Getty Images