Sara Jane Atwood MUG

Sara Jane Atwood

Dressed in loose fitting, orange jail clothes, Sara Jane Atwood stood at the podium and turned, smiling at relatives who came to see her sentenced for her role in the murder of her 73-year-old Lecanto grandfather.

They didn’t get what they came for.

Circuit Court Judge Richard “Ric” Howard on Wednesday in his Inverness courtroom granted Atwood’s defense attorney’s request for a continuance and to delay the 25-year old’s sentencing until 2 p.m. Sept. 24. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 11.

Atwood, of Inverness, pleaded guilty in July to second-degree murder and another felony charge of armed burglary.

In September 2018 a Citrus County grand jury indicted Atwood and Christopher Eugene Smith in connection to the 2017 murder of the 73-year-old James Thomas Roman, who helped raise Atwood.

Atwood convinced Roman to open the door of his home, allowing Smith to barge inside and strangle Roman to death and steal his truck. Smith is currently serving two life sentences.

“I wanted it to end today,” a young woman in the audience told the Chronicle and who identified herself only as Lisa and Roman’s granddaughter.

She would not give her last name.

Asked how well she knew Atwood, the young woman replied, “We grew up together.”  

Atwood’s defense attorney, Charlie Vaughn, said he asked for the continuance because his mitigation witness was unavailable and not prepared for the sentencing phase.

A sentencing mitigation witness provides information to the judge on behalf of the defense explaining circumstances about the accused that could play a role in sentencing. Atwood faces life in prison.

“Anything to lessen the sentence,” Vaughn said of the information the mitigation witness would bring forward later this month.

Vaughn would not say what details about Atwood would come to light, saying only, “We present that all at the hearing.”      

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Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.

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