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Last NameFirst NamePictureDC NumberAgencyCase Summary
TennisGabby L6132515th Circuit PDCase Summary

Last Action

DateCourtCase NumberLast Action
1/7/2009DOC03-11459Removed from Death Row pending Retrial
4/17/2006FSC06-730Direct Appeal filed
8/20/2007FSC06-730Initial brief filed
11/26/2007FSC06-730Answer filed
1/31/2008FSC06-730Reply brief filed
6/9/2008FSC06-730OA held
12/11/2008FSC06-730Conviction reversed and sentence vacated; Remanded for new trial
1/5/2009FSC06-730Mandate entered

Current Attorney


Last Updated

2008-01-09 11:43:13.0

Case Summary
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The Commission on Capital Cases updates thisinformation regularly.  This information; however, is subject to changeand may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not berelied upon for statistical or legal purposes. 


TENNIS, Gabby (W/M)

DC# L61325

DOB: 02/27/80


­­­Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County Case #03-11459

Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Susan Lebow

Attorney, Trial: Patrick Rastatter – Private

Attorney, Direct Appeal: Carey Haughwout and Jeffrey L. Anderson– Public Defender’s Office


Date of Offense: 05/31/03

Date of Sentence: 03/03/06


Circumstances of Offense:


On 09/19/05, Gabby Tennis was convicted of therobbery-related murder of 91-one-year old Hollywood Beach resident, AlbertVassella.  His codefendant and girlfriend, Sophia Adams pled guilty tosecond-degree murder and testified against him at trial.


Vassella was known to the defendants through Adams’ mother,Liza Boltos, whom Vassella employed to clean his home.  Boltos, an ethnicgypsy, testified at trial that within her and Adams’ culture it is customaryfor gypsy families to allow their daughters to elope with gypsy men for anarranged dowry.  When Tennis and Adams became more serious in theirrelationship, Boltos demanded payment for a dowry.  Tennis and Boltos beganregularly demanding money from Tennis’ father, Lawrence Tennis, who was opposedto the transaction.  Boltos testified that a few days before the murder, sheneeded to borrow some money, so she asked Tennis to drive her to Vassella’shome.  Along the way, she explained to Tennis that Vassella was an old man whowould occasionally give her money.  On that visit, Vassella lent Boltos between10 and 15 dollars.


Vassella was last seen alive on 05/31/03 by his friend,Maria Sklar.  The two had been to lunch and had plans for another lunch datethe following day.  When Vassella failed to answer his telephone or front doorfor two days, it was Sklar who found his body in his living room on 06/02/08. The house had been ransacked and his telephone no longer functioned.


On the morning of the murder, 05/31/08, Adams and Tennis hadargued and decided to go for a walk.  The walk eventually led to Vassella’sfront door, where the two were welcomed inside when Tennis asked to useVassella’s phone book.  At some point during the visit, Tennis rose from thechair where he had been sitting, punched Vassella in the forehead, and demandedwhatever money and valuables he possessed.  Tennis picked Vassella up from thefloor and threw him against a bookshelf in the living room.  As Tenniscontinued to demand his valuables, he began to stomp Vassella’s face with theheel of his sneakers.  Adams testified that she witnessed Tennis strikeVassella with his sneakers seven or eight times.  Vassella died as a result ofblunt force trauma to the head and neck.


After the attack, Tennis and Adams returned to Boltos’ homeand then to a friend’s home where they traded Tennis’ Ford F-150 for a whitePlymouth Acclaim.  After spending the night with the friend, the pair left theHollywood Beach area and made their way to the Columbus, Ohio home of Tennis’biological mother. From there they traveled to Chicago, where Tennis alteredhis appearance by shaving his head.  An FBI-task force arrested them in theirhotel room two days later.



Codefendant Information: SophiaAdams L53686


Sophia Adams wasconvicted of home invasion/robbery and second-degree murder.  She received15 years for each conviction.


Additional Information:


A psychologist testifiedthat Tennis is borderline mentally retarded with a mental capacity of a12-year-old. 


Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida:




Trial Summary:


08/06/03          Indictedas follows:

                                    CountI:           First-degree Murder (Albert Vassella)

                                    CountII:         Aggravated Battery on a Person 65 yrs/older

                                    CountIII:        Home Invasion/Robbery

09/19/05          Juryreturned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment.

01/12/06          Juryrecommended death by a vote of 8-4.

04/06/06          Sentencedas follows:

                                    CountI:           First-Degree Murder (Albert Vassella) – Death

                                    CountII:         Aggravated Battery – 15 Years

                                    CountIII:        Home Invasion/Robbery – 15 Years

01/07/09          TheFlorida Supreme Court granted a new penalty phase

04/27/09          Sentencedreduced to life imprisonment



Appeal Summary:


Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal

FSC# 06-730

997So.2d 375


04/16/07          Appealfiled

10/07/08          OralArguments held

12/11/08          Convictionreversed, sentence vacated; Remanded to circuit court for new trial

01/05/09          Mandateentered


Factors Contributing to the Delay in Imposition ofSentence:


Not applicable at thistime.


Case Information:


On 04/17/06, Tennis fileda Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court. In his Initial Brief (filed08/20/07), Tennis raised the following issues on appeal: 1) the trial courterred in allowing witness Hill to improperly testify as an expert and to beused as a conduit for hearsay testimony, 2) the trial court erred in allowingthe introduction of Sophia Adams guilty plea without a limiting instruction andin prohibiting the appellant from introducing the factual basis of SophiaAdams’ guilty plea to the murder of Albert Vassella, 3) the trial court erredin failing to respond to the appellant’s requests to represent himself and innot allowing the appellant to represent himself, 4) the trial court erred infailing to hold a competency hearing, 5) the trial court erred in failing toinstruct on the lesser included offense of murder in the third degree withgrand theft as the underlying felony, 6) the appellant was denied due processand a fair trial where the jury’s general verdict may have been based on alegally invalid theory, 7) the appellant was denied due process and a fairtrial where his counsel refused to represent the appellant when he took thewitness stand, 8) the trial court erred in failing to conduct an adequate Nelsoninquiry, 9) the appellant was denied due process and a fair trial by theprosecution taking inconsistent positions to obtain the appellant’s convictionand sentence, 10) the appellant was denied due process, a fair trial, and afair penalty phase due to the undue injection of ethnicity, 11) the deathpenalty is disproportionate in this case, 12) by submitting the aggravatingcircumstance that the victim was vulnerable due to advanced age or disability,double jeopardy was violated as the appellant had been acquitted of felonymurder of an elderly or disabled person, 13) the trial court erred in givinggreat weight to the jury’s death recommendation, 14) the trial court erred inrejecting age as a mitigating factor, 15) Florida’s death penalty, by notrequiring unanimous jury finding for death, unanimous jury finding ofaggravating circumstances, nor the jury finding beyond a reasonable doubt thataggravating circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances violates the Fifth,Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, 16)the appellant was unable to exercise his right to plead guilty, 17) FloridaStatute 921.141(d), the felony murder aggravator, is unconstitutional on itsface and as applied in this case, and 18) the trial court judge erred by notfinding, in writing, sufficient aggravating circumstances to support a deathsentence.  On 12/11/08, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the convictionfor first-degree felony murder and vacated his sentence of death and remandedfor a new trial on the grounds of the third issue on appeal.  On 01/05/09, theFlorida Supreme Court entered a mandate in this case.



Tennis was resentenced bythe Circuit Court to life imprisonment on 04/27/09.



Institutional Adjustment:

This information isunavailable at this time.



Report Date:   12/12/08          AEH

Approved:       12/16/08          RM

Updated:         09/09/09          EMJ