By CARL MARIO NUDI
A grand jury Tuesday indicted Thomas Fast on a charge of first-degree murder in the "cutting or stabbing" death of his stepmother.
The grand jury also indicted Fast on charges of robbing Susan Fast of her vehicle, jewelry, a watch and other property.
The first-degree murder indictment means Fast could be eligible to receive the death penalty, if convicted.
The dismembered body of Susan Fast, 60, was found July 25 in a storm-water drain and retention pond behind a Lakewood Ranch shopping plaza.
Assistant state attorney Art Brown said the grand jury met from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to review the evidence the state had to present.
Although state law prevents Brown from revealing what transpired in front of the grand jury, investigators with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office said they found jewelry belonging to Susan Fast hidden in a deodorant container that was in Thomas Fast's duffel bag.
According to the grand jury indictment, Thomas Fast, "from a premeditated design to effect the death of Susan Fast . . . did kill the said Susan Fast, by cutting or stabbing her with a sharp instrument or knife, thereby inflicting mortal wounds and injuries which caused the death of Susan Fast."
Bruce Fast, Thomas' father and Susan's widower, said he was not surprised by the grand jury's action.
"I said from the time I walked into the house, it was Thomas," Bruce Fast said.
He said he and his family have had a hard time getting over his wife's death, especially with the gruesome manner in which she was killed.
"I've had a real struggle," Bruce Fast said. "You see these kinds of things on 'CSI,' but it never hits home."
He said "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," a television series that deals with the forensic investigation of murders, was his wife's favorite program.
The news of the progress of the legal proceedings does not provide any comfort, Bruce Fast said.
"Susie can't be returned," he said. "My loss is her. Susie and I were so much in love."
Florida law requires prosecutors to convene a grand jury in all capital murder cases to hand down a formal charge.
Thomas Fast will now have an arraignment on the charges and a trial date will be set, according to Brown. No decision has been announced on whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole, if Fast is found guilty of first-degree murder.
Bruce Fast reported his wife of 33 years missing June 30 after returning home from a trip to the Bahamas.
Thomas Fast was considered a suspect in the case from the beginning of the investigation and was arrested on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon June 30. He since has been held in the Manatee County jail.
A judge last week ordered a mental competency evaluation for the 52-year-old construction worker.
Bruce Fast had told investigators that his son had mental problems and was not taking his medication.
Assistant public defender Franklin Roberts said until the judge rules on Thomas Fast's competency a trial date will not be set.
During the evaluation process, which can take about three weeks, Roberts said the state attorney's office will provide him with the list of witnesses that will be called to the stand.
Roberts would not talk specifically about the grand jury indictment, but said Thomas Fast will plead not guilty.