TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Tampa Bay area shoplifter has been sentenced to five years in prison because a security guard suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to stop the crime.

As part of a deal with Hillsborough County prosecutors, 36-year-old Mervin Bettis pleaded guilty Monday to third-degree murder. He could have received up to 30 years in prison.

Authorities say Bettis tried to steal about $1,100 worth of razor blade cartridges from a Tampa Target in May 2011. Two security guards struggled with Bettis as he tried to flee. Minutes after handcuffing Bettis, one of the guards — 65-year-old Russell Horner — collapsed and later died.

Florida law says a person can be charged with felony murder if a death occurs during the commission of certain felonies.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

 

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