Shelby Farah murder trial resumes Monday in Jacksonville

Celllphone store clerk Shelby Farah‘s 2013 slaying shocked Jacksonville to its core.  And a sharp debate continues between the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office on whether the trial of James Xavier Rhodes should be a death penalty case.

Farah’s mother, Darlene Farah, and State Attorney’s Office prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda disagree that the death penalty should be sought for defendant Rhodes.

Rhodes shot and killed Shelby Farah, 20, during a 2013 robbery of the Northside MetroPSC store at 3100 N. Main St. N. where she worked.

Darlene Farah has asked as recently as this month that the death penalty not be applied in this case.

Public Defender Matt Shirk asserted in a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey last month, “Mrs. Farah has been particularly vocal concerning her opposition to your office’s decision to seek the death penalty for her daughter Shelby’s murder.”

If the death penalty is pursued, Shirk asserts,  “this case will continue to be litigated for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years. I believe that with every motion, petition or appeal filed on Mr. Rhodes’ behalf, she will relive the pain and loss she has felt since losing Shelby.”

The Farah family has been mourning for two years and seven months since her slaying.

It’s still fresh in her mother’s consciousness. Part of the reason why, Farah says, is that in recent days, “I have seen the video of my daughter getting killed repeatedly.

“James Rhodes didn’t take away one life. He took away many lives. Our lives will never be the same. My life will never be the same,” Farah said Sunday.

Such statement usually help make the case for a maximum penalty. Farah, however, calls it “pathetic that people are trying to use my daughter’s death for their [political] benefit.”

Her blunt take on the case is that many parties have political agendas that are taking priority over her and her family’s needs.

“The days before court dates,” Farah said, are “pure hell” at her house. Indeed, during the 31 months since her daughter’s death her mind has continually been occupied with it.

They are months that have torn the family apart. The kids have a hard time being at home where their sister’s absence remains an open wound, she said. Meanwhile, she said, the case has driven a wedge between her and her son.

Farah, a Jacksonville native, opposes the death penalty in this case, saying that the “state failed … raised and created James Rhodes.” He had been a ward of the state since his parents abandoned him at age 5.  He received physical and sexual abuse in a boys’ home.

Farah’s son supports the death penalty in the case. In spite of his mother’s pleas with the SAO to not show him the video, it was done. Since then, she said, her son has not slept at home, and says that “he hates me” and “never comes home.”

“I can’t help but feel like they are trying to play my son against me,” she said.

Despite her son’s position on capital punishment, Farah said that if Shelby were alive “she’d be trying to help James Rhodes.”

“Everybody always called Shelby the peacemaker,” her mother said.

There is little peace in the Farah home, and hasn’t been in the past 31 months. Farah tells of cooking Christmas dinner and he children decided not to be around to eat it.

Dinner went into the garbage.

Meanwhile, for Darlene Farah, the worries pile up. Her son, years ago, was making trips to visit college football programs. Played multiple positions at Cedar Creek High. Ran a 4.6 40.

“He’s so smart,” Farah added. “Always got perfect FCAT scores.”

Now? He’s dropped out of high school. Drinks more. And his mother frets.

“My son’s going to end up in a morgue or a prison,” Farah said if things don’t turn around.

“I done buried one child. I don’t want to bury another,” Farah said.

The trial resumes Monday morning in Courtroom 503 in the Duval County Courthouse. Long after final sentencing, though, the trial will continue for the Farah family.