South Florida Man Sentenced to Lesser Charges on Appeal in First-Degree Murder Case

Larry Modena and William Dabbs were friends. Their lives intersected on many different levels. In addition to sharing their private lives they also worked together at Modena’s contracting and construction company, Atlantic Coast Builders. Their relationship seemed nothing out of the ordinary until a fateful day in October 2011 in Boynton Beach when Dabbs shot his friend to his death as they argued in a Home Depot parking lot where both of their cars were parked side by side. Dabbs shot Modena five times before he fled the scene.

When police were dispatched to the location of the shooting, they pursued Dabbs who was operating his work van leading them on a high-speed chase that at one point had Dabbs turn and point his .38 caliber pistol at one of the officers. The officer returned fire, but neither were injured as Modena lay dying in his car.

After Dabbs was taken into custody without further incident he was ultimately charged with first-degree murder, fleeing and eluding law enforcement and armed aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.

At trial, the prosecution told a tale of a perilous combination of drugs, fury, and resentment driving Dabbs to shoot Modena in what was implied to be a fit of rage.

Palm Beach County Assistant State Attorneys believed they had a strong case and told the jury that Dabbs was annoyed that Modena had helped his wife file a restraining order against him. They also pointed out that Modena appeared to be in the process of ending their business relationship which would have left Dabbs without a job. Several law enforcement officers also testified during the course of the trial.

The defense headed by two Assistant Public Defenders contended that Dabbs shot Modena after he pistol-whipped him as Modena was furious that their client refused to provide him with prescription pills to feed his Opiate habit. Dabbs later took the stand and testified that he shot Modena in self-defense.

The jury didn’t come back by the end of the day with a verdict but on the second day and a total of eight hours of deliberation found Dabbs guilty as charged on all counts.

Dabbs was sentenced to life in prison along with the prosecution’s recommendation to give Dabbs two additional, consecutive 15-year sentences for the fleeing and aggravated battery charges. The judge chose to also allow the sentences to run consecutively although she could have levied the sentence to run as concurrent.

However the story didn’t end upon sentencing and Dabb’s enacted imprisonment.

Two years into his prison sentence the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled in Dabb’s favor and granted him a new trial based on problems relating to evidence.

In the second court case which took place in early February of this year it didn’t appear any new evidence was provided by the prosecution or the defense but it should be noted the trial was officiated by a new judge and presented to a new jury.

The judge in the first case was presiding over her first murder trial as opposed to a more experienced judge overseeing the appeal.

And in this case the jury decided to return guilty verdicts as well, but on the lesser charges presented to them for the fatal shooting of Larry Modena.

Dabbs was convicted of manslaughter, fleeing and improper display of a firearm. Ten days after the trial concluded at his sentencing hearing the Circuit Judge in the case sentenced Dabbs to a total of thirty years in prison with credit for the more than eight years, he’s spent in custody as he awaited the outcome of his case.

Dabbs is sixty-two years old and the difference in the penalty may give him the opportunity to see the light of day on the outside of a prison cell before his time expires in this lifetime.

Michael B. Cohen, Esq. is a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney whose expertise in homicide cases is extensive. As a former Assistant State Attorney for Broward County, and an Assistant United States Attorney for the government, Mr. Cohen clients receive the best sought possible outcome refuting any charges alleged by the State of Florida or the Federal Government. Working for the prosecution prior to founding his criminal defense practice in the private sector has given him a superior advantage that will result beneficially for those who seek his help. If you, a family member, or close friend is charged with any type of homicide, call Mr. Cohen at the earliest possible time for a free case evaluation.

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