Yolinda Hunter Doss, the widow of a local Navy commander slain in his Orange Park motel room three years ago, was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison for manslaughter in his death.
Doss, 47, pleaded guilty to the second-degree felony for her role in his slaying after prosecutors agreed to drop a murder charge, one of two counts she faced from a 2014 indictment. A second count of burglary was dismissed last month.
The widow, her boyfriend and her roommate were all charged in the February 2014 murder of her estranged husband, Cmdr. Alphonso Mortimer Doss. But while prosecutors have contended the trio plotted his killing, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict his wife of murder.
“We could not prove that she arranged for him to be murdered. The most we could prove was that she arranged to keep him away from her and have him roughed up,” said Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who prosecuted the case.
The plea bargain was reached after the state’s murder case against Doss was hamstrung by her boyfriend’s testimony during his own trial. He testified that she enlisted him and her roommate to confront her husband, but things got out of hand.
The state’s case suffered an additional setback Feb. 22 when Circuit Judge John Skinner granted a defense motion to dismiss the burglary count against Doss because the motel room where her husband lived and later died was rented in her name.
“You can’t commit a burglary to your own residence,” de la Rionda said.
That felony charge would have paved the way for prosecutors to prove murder. Under Florida law, when a death occurs in the midst of a felony, those taking part in the felony act can be charged with and convicted of murder.
Reached Thursday, the victim’s father, Tom Allen, had mixed emotions after learning the news.
On one hand, the 70-year-old was encouraged by the second conviction in his son’s case. On the other, he lamented what it means for his 18-year-old granddaughter, who’s living with family while going to school in Georgia.
“I’m glad my son is getting some justice,” he said. “I’m also feeling very sorry for my granddaughter. She lost her father tragically and now she has lost her mother. My feelings and thoughts are with her.”
Cmdr. Doss, 44, was found dead inside his room at the Astoria Hotel on Feb. 12, 2014. His laptop computer was gone and the room was left in disarray with empty liquor bottles and pills among the clutter — part of what authorities said was a staged burglary.
An autopsy performed the next day found he was strangled.
Six months later, police arrested his wife; her lover, 31-year-old Anthony Delane Washington; and 35-year-old Ronnie Randolph Wilson II. Authorities indicated at the time the commander was killed so his wife could collect $600,000 in insurance money she was owed if he died.
According to police reports and court documents, she obtained two spare keys to her husband’s room in the days leading up to his death and gave them to Washington and Wilson. She acknowledged acting as a lookout while the pair waited inside the room for her husband and then ambushed him.
But Doss’ defense painted a different picture in court. They argued her husband, who was juggling substance abuse problems and a crumbling marriage, repeatedly harassed and threatened her. Washington and Wilson were asked to set him straight, defense attorney Ann Finnell said.
“They just went about it the wrong way,” she said.
Finnell said the problem with that strategy is her client knew her husband and Washington, and she should have known the confrontation could escalate into violence.
“I think it was a fair disposition all the way around and, by the way, so does Mrs. Doss,” she said.
Washington is serving life in prison plus 30 years after he was convicted last September of first-degree murder and burglary. The jury did not buy his story that he killed Doss in self-defense.
Wilson has yet to stand trial.
“The main thing is, the actual person who strangled the victim is doing life in prison,” de la Rionda said.
Garrett Pelican: (904) 359-4385