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Man sentenced in beating death of restaurant manager he met on dating app for sex

Bobby Scott, left, and Michael Harris Jr. (Harris screenshot from NBC Orlando affiliate WESH)

Bobby Scott, left, and Michael Harris Jr. (Scott photo from Volusia Sheriff’s Office; Harris screenshot from NBC Orlando affiliate WESH)

A man who pleaded guilty to murdering a man he met on a dating app for sex has been sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Michael Harris Jr. received the sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Bobby Scott, 63, whose severely beaten body was discovered in a wooded area in DeLand, Florida, north of Orlando.

In court, Harris’ attorney and a defense forensic psychologist spoke on his behalf, the West Palm Beach News reported on Friday. The psychologist testified Harris was remorseful.

“He said, ‘I wasn’t even aware of my actions at that moment. I can’t believe I committed such an act. I despise myself for it,'” recited defense forensic psychologist Dr. Lisa Potash, the news site reported.

Lesa Hall, the victim’s sister, urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence of 50 years, the paper reported.

“We don’t want another family to endure the pain of losing their loved one in such a horrifying manner at his hands,” Hall said, according to the paper.

Judge Elizabeth Blackburn acknowledged the defense’s testimony that Harris had faced a challenging life, the newspaper reported.

Harris had been released from a Florida juvenile justice residential program on Jan. 3, 2020, and was listed as having a “high” commitment level for crimes of robbery, carjacking with a firearm, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon from 2018, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime showed.

But Blackburn described the murder as senseless and characterized Harris’ actions afterward as deliberate.

“Mr. Harris viciously attacked the victim and made a series of very intentional choices and actions,” she said, the paper reported.

Harris’ defense attorney didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

An affidavit outlined the case that began on Jan. 17, 2021, when Scott met his killer through a dating app to have sex but was never seen or heard from again.

When Scott didn’t return home, his husband told authorities he had not seen or spoken with him since he left to go to the gym. Scott’s severely beaten body was discovered several days later in a wooded area in DeLand.

Harris was arrested after being found driving Scott’s bloody 2019 Chevrolet Blazer SUV that was being tracked via GPS as it traveled on a highway in east DeLand, court documents said.

A search of Scott’s vehicle found blood on the exterior in several areas, including the driver’s side door handles and the rear cargo hatch, court documents said. Blood was also found in several places in the rear cargo area. DNA testing of the evidence matched the killer and victim, court documents said.

“The blood was in spots and streaks on the passenger side plastic molding of the cargo area, as well as on several areas of the cargo area carpet,” the affidavit said. “There was also a pattern of blood transfer on the rear cargo lift gate interior plastic panel.”

Authorities found broken shards of brown glass — consistent with beer bottles — some with apparent blood — along the edge of the weather stripping of the cargo area.

Investigators also found fingerprints in blood — Harris’ — outside the rear cargo hatch, court documents said.

The affidavit said Harris told authorities that Scott had picked him up at his home, and the two drove to Orlando, where he left him after Harris told investigators Scott went to an apartment complex where he met a suspicious black male driving a black BMW with tinted windows.

Harris said the black male appeared to be a drug dealer with a pistol in his left waistband. He said Scott got in the vehicle with the suspicious male, and Harris left in Scott’s vehicle.

Harris told authorities he had not heard from Scott after leaving him in Orlando, the affidavit said.

Scott’s husband told authorities they were happily married and in an open relationship. He said he grew concerned after not hearing from him for a day. He grew more alarmed when he called Scott’s phone, and a female named “Michelle” answered, saying she found the phone in a yard nearby.

He told detectives Scott hadn’t stayed out overnight without his knowledge and had never been away for any length of time – adding that Scott never loaned his vehicle to anyone and did not even allow him to drive it.

The husband told investigators that Scott “being gone for that extended period of time was very worrisome for him, and he was in fear that Bobby was in danger,” court documents said.

Law&Crime’s Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.

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