TALLAHASSEE — Jurors deliberated for three hours May 24 before convicting 21-year-old Emmanuel Forrest Lockhart for the attempted murder of a local restaurant owner in July last year.

The Office of State Attorney Glenn Hess reported the jury convicted Lockhart in a Washington County courtroom on charges of attempt to commit first degree murder with a firearm, attempt to commit robbery with a firearm and burglary of a structure with a firearm.

The jury made the necessary findings under the 10/20/Life law that requires a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years to life on each crime because Lockhart carried and discharged a firearm that caused great bodily harm during the commission of the crimes.

Assistant State Attorney Shalla Jefcoat​ called 20​ witnesses to the stand to prove on the afternoon of July 10 last year, Lockhart repeatedly shot Jody Rhoda as she left the Colonial Restaurant for the day. 

Chipley Police Department (CPD) was dispatched to the restaurant around 4 p.m. that Sunday when gunshots were reported near the Colonial. Police arrived to find Rhoda on the ground behind the restaurant with multiple gunshot wounds. Rhoda was transported to a Panama City hospital in critical condition, where she underwent surgery for her wounds.  

Authorities believe Lockhart, a disgruntled former employee, had been waiting inside the restaurant and followed his victim outside. The case was investigated by the Chipley Police Department and, with the assistance of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Lockhart was arrested within an hour of committing the crime. Lockhart told authorities his motive was to rob the owner. His bail was set at $450,000.

Rhoda continued her recovery through physical and occupational therapy. She eventually returned to work at the restaurant.

Lockhart’s conviction brought a sense of closure to Rhoda. Rhoda told Washington County News she is glad justice prevailed, but added that the outcome is not an entirely happy occasion to her. She said her heart goes out to Lockhart’s family.

Judge ​Timothy Register scheduled a sentencing date for June 15.