Saturday, July 19, 2008

Judge Rules Zephyrhills Man Can Face Death Penalty

Judge Rules Zephyrhills Man Can Face Death Penalty

Roy Phillip Ballard, 67, was convicted of his stepdaughter's Lakeland murder.
By Jason Geary


Published: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 7:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 8:44 a.m.
BARTOW A judge ruled Friday that prosecutors can continue pursuing the death penalty against Roy Phillip Ballard.

A jury convicted the 67-year-old Zephyrhills man earlier this month of traveling to Lakeland to kill his stepdaughter, Autumn Marie Traub.

Ballard's lawyer, Byron Hileman, filed motions Monday requesting that Circuit Judge Donald Jacobsen acquit his client or prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty. Jacobsen denied the defense's motions.

Traub, 33, disappeared Sept. 13, 2006, after meeting with Ballard. Her body has never been found.

Prosecutors theorized that Ballard wanted to continue a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old female relative, and Traub was preventing him from regaining custody.

Jurors are scheduled to begin hearing testimony Wednesday in the penalty phase of Ballard's trial.

The jury that found Ballard guilty of first-degree murder will recommend whether he should face life in prison or the death penalty.

Under Florida law, Jacobsen must give the jury's recommendation great weight.

Possible witnesses during the penalty phase include doctors who have evaluated Ballard and perhaps Ballard's wife.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that Traub's murder was "cold, calculated and premeditated" - an aggravating circumstance that can provide the legal basis for a death sentence.

[ Jason Geary can be reached at or 863-802-7536. ]

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