Orange County man acquitted on murder charge walks free

Victim’s parents told News 6 they’re disappointed

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County man acquitted on a murder charge will walk away a free man, after serving time on a battery charge for which he was convicted.

On Wednesday, a jury found Benjamin Hayward Jr., 33, not guilty of second-degree murder after prosecutors say he shot a man in the head and wounded another man at Magnolia Court condos on Dec. 19, 2017.

Jurors, however, convicted Hayward of a battery charge with a firearm. Hayward is being released from jail based on time served.

The shooting killed Matthew Jafari, 19, and injured Sasmon Tavares, 21.

Jafari's parents told News 6 they're disappointed with how the trial and the case played out.

"They showed all the wounds to my son, and the jury let this man go," said the victim's mother, Nancy Jafari. "Travesty of justice."

Nancy Jafari said her son was a mentor and he was helping a friend when he lost his life. "He took a friend to get clothes. He was mentoring a young man."

She told News 6 that a witness testified in court that, "This gentleman, Benjamin Heyward, not only shot my son in the back of his head after he shook his hands, but after he made sure Matthew was dead, started to shoot at Sasmon."

Tavares told deputies that he and Heyward had been roommates at one point but, recently, they had been arguing, so they agreed to meet at Magnolia Court condos on Forest City Road, according to the affidavit.

Tavares and Jafari went to an area near the tennis courts to meet Heyward, who arrived with two other men. Deputies said Heyward shook Jafari's hand "and immediately shot him in the head" with a black semi-automatic handgun.

Prosecutors said Heyward shot Tavares in the arm as he was running away from the scene.

Deputies said Heyward was found inside a unit at Magnolia Court condos around 8 a.m. Tuesday and was taken into custody.

Nancy Jafari said she wants to know why the man deputies say killed her only child, her son, will walk away as a free man.

"If he had a gun and my son is dead and the other kid has a bullet in his arm, how could you find him guilty of a misdemeanor? It doesn't make sense," she said.

News 6 asked Heyward’s attorney for comment but has not heard back.

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