Shaftney “Shaft” McMullen was originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries up to life in prison. Without the plea, the highest penalty for manslaughter with a firearm would have been 30 years.

TAVARES — Plea deals happen every day. But this case was different.

On Tuesday, drug dealer Shaftney “Shaft” McMullen, 25, who shot a customer to death in Clermont, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading no contest to manslaughter with a firearm.

The victim’s stepmother, Deborah Stedelin, said she forgives him.

“There was a part of me that wanted to be angry with you, but that kind of anger comes from hate and I want you to know that I don’t hate you. I am not really even angry with you. I just hurt for you and your family, for all of us," she said in court on Tuesday.

“I want you to know that I have been fervently been praying for you since the day I first heard your name. And, though I was not allowed to do so, I wanted to come see you. I desperately wanted you to know that prayers were being raised for you and your family from the beginning of this horrible ordeal and will continue to be lifted for you for the rest of your life.

"I have an unwavering faith, Shaftney, and believe with all my heart that God can and will bring about something beautiful from all this heartache," Stedelin continued. "Because I have chosen love and forgiveness instead of hatefulness and bitterness, I am able to have peace through all of this. I pray that if you do not know Jesus as your savior, you would not wait another moment, but invite him into your heart and life. He makes all the difference in this dark world."

“There was a lot that went on that night. Everything just happened so quick,” McMullen said to Ronald Stedelin’s widow, who did not make a statement in court. “Your husband took himself away from his kid, and I took myself away from mine. To this day, I regret it, but I can’t take it back. I wish you the best. My kids are growing up without a father as well.”

“I apologize,” he said in a rambling statement in court that took several minutes.

McMullen, of Mascotte, has insisted that he shot Ronald Stedelin in self-defense.

Police were called to an apartment complex at 1010 Disston Ave. at 2:39 a.m. on June 11, 2017, after receiving reports of a man lying in the street with a head wound.

It wasn’t long before police began receiving tips that McMullen shot Stedelin. In fact, there were a lot of tips, though not all of them were accurate.

One witness said they saw Stedelin in a fight with another man, with McMullen coming to the aid of the other man.

Stedelin was in the area to buy drugs and was reportedly angry with the other man and claimed he had stolen his money, the tipster said.

As the investigation continued, more witnesses contacted police. One witness reported that a woman named Amber Weaver was with McMullen when the shooting occurred.

When questioned, Weaver first said she had been in Orlando. As investigators received more calls and began checking phone records, they concluded that she had helped McMullen. She was charged with accessory after the fact to a life felony.

On Feb. 22, 2018, she met with Assistant State Attorney Hugh Bass, along with her attorney, James Gigliotti. Originally, she told investigators she was in Orlando the night of the shooting. Bass said he wasn’t offering any promises or offering any deals about her legal troubles, but she told her version of what happened.

She said she had been hanging out with McMullen and others selling her “product,” as she put it — marijuana and Xanax. McMullen was selling drugs, too.

About an hour before the shooting a man pulled up next to her car fast and recklessly. He got out of the car and said, “Where’s Wide?’” the nickname of a local drug dealer, Weaver told prosecutors.

“He’s like, ‘I need it. I need it.’ He’s like hitting his chest, and he’s, just like, real angry,” she said. McMullen got out of the car, said he was Wide’s “brother” and sold the man some drugs, possibly crack cocaine, Weaver said.

The man, later identified as Stedelin, came back 30 minutes later. He jumped out of his SUV and screamed, “You got to [expletive] straighten me,” which is slang for “you got to either give me my money back or you got to give me more dope,” according to Weaver's statement to the prosecution.

McMullen tried to calm him down. The man then threatened to spray Weaver's car with bullets. She said the man was looking for his gun in his car but couldn’t find it.

She quoted McMullen as saying: “Calm down. Calm down. You don’t want to do that. Calm down.”

“And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he ... bent over and he tried to tackle him. He tried to tackle Shaftney. And at that point, Shaftney hit him with the gun one time. And when he moved the gun up, I don’t know what happened, and he just shot him.”

She said she spent the next several hours driving McMullen to various locations.

McMullen’s attorney filed a motion asking the court to grant him immunity from prosecution, saying the shooting was in self-defense. He also asked for a stand-your-ground hearing. Circuit Judge Heidi Davis denied those requests.

Circuit Judge Mark Nacke set bond for McMullen at $100,000 in October of 2017, but he remained in jail.

It is unclear what will happen to Weaver now.

“She did tell the truth,” said Bass, the prosecutor.  “She was offered an opportunity from the beginning, but she wanted to play hard ball. She could have saved herself a lot of jail time.”

McMullen was originally charged with second-degree murder, which carries up to life in prison. Without the plea, the highest penalty for manslaughter with a firearm would have been 30 years. McMullen also faced four counts of drug crimes, which the state ended up calling for the low end of sentencing at about 14 years and rolled those charges concurrently with the manslaughter sentence.

After the hearing, Deborah Stedelin described her stepson as “larger than life, charismatic, funny, a father, a son, a brother, and an uncle.”

Asked if forgiving her stepson’s killer was hard, she said: “Not today at all. God tells us we have to.”