Friday, April 25, 2008

Man gets death sentence in murder

By Richard Prior,
St. Augustine Record

ST. AUGUSTINE - Renee Boling Howard's mother couldn't hold in a long sobbing gasp Thursday morning as she heard the death sentence given to the man who murdered her daughter.

There was little reaction from James Daniel Turner, 36, as Circuit Judge Wendy Berger sentenced him for bursting into the St. Augustine Comfort Inn on Sept. 30, 2005, and stabbing Howard 15 times.

Berger also sentenced Turner to 30 years in prison for an attack on Stacia Raybon, who was stabbed twice before she locked herself in the bathroom.

Two 10-month-old babies and a 2-year-old also were in the room at the time but were unharmed.

In addition, the judge gave Turner life in prison for home invasion robbery with a deadly weapon, five years for the grand theft of Howard's Ford F-150 pickup truck and 15 years for aggravated assault on a police officer.

Deputy Graham Harris testified that he chased Turner south on Florida 207 at speeds between 90 and 100 mph. He said Turner put the pickup truck in reverse and rammed his patrol car before jumping off the Deep Creek bridge.

Raybon attended the sentencing but declined to talk to media.

Turner was completing a prison term at a Newberry, S.C., jail when he hot-wired a police car and drove to St. Augustine, where he ran out of gas. Turner made his way to the Comfort Inn looking for a car and money to steal.

Raybon identified Turner shortly after the attack as the man who had burst into the motel room.

Turner's jury deliberated about 90 minutes on Dec. 5 before voting 10-2 for the death penalty.

Berger was not bound by the recommendation.

The prosecution had shown the crime was "heinous, atrocious and cruel," she said. The attack also was "cold, calculated and premeditated" and was committed for financial gain.

No one from Turner's family attended Thursday's sentencing.

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