James Z. Powell sentenced for killing Joel Tatro

James Z. Powell and Joel Tatro (WESH screenshots)

A 20-year-old man in Florida will spend more than four decades behind bars for shooting and killing the father of a high school classmate after crashing the boy’s house party four years ago.

Seventh Circuit Judge Raul A. Zambrano on Friday ordered James Z. Powell to serve 45 years in a state penitentiary for fatally shooting 45-year-old Joel Tatro in the man’s home, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime show.

Powell, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was convicted by a Volusia County jury in March on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. In addition to the decades of incarceration, Judge Zambrano sentenced Powell to probation for the rest of his life.

Powell was initially charged with first-degree attempted murder because Tatro, who suffered a gunshot wound to the neck, initially survived but was left paralyzed from the neck down. However, Tatro, in March 2022, died “from COVID-19 with complications from the gunshot,” the medical examiner determined, Orlando CBS affiliate WKMG-TV reported.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Tatro hosted a party for two of his children and their high school friends on the night of Feb. 16, 2019, at his home in Oak Hill, about 50 miles northeast of Orlando. There were about 20 people in attendance, police said.

At approximately 1 a.m. on Feb. 17, a dark blue Dodge sedan carrying multiple people pulled into the driveway of the Tatro home. Several witnesses told police that they immediately recognized Powell and two other males from school as they got out of the vehicle and approached the Tatro residence. None of them had been invited to the party.

James Z. Powell sentenced for killing Joel Tatro

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