Friday, November 28, 2008

Allred to die for murders

By Abraham Aboraya
November 26, 2008

SANFORD - Just before Seminole County Judge O.H. Eaton sentenced Oviedo murderer Andrew Allred to death, he asked if Allred had anything to say.

Allred, thin, bearded and clad in a blue jumpsuit, shook his head from side to side. Never once did he look back at the crowd of press, family members and those close to the case.

Eaton sentenced Allred to death for murdering Tiffany Barwick and again for the death of Michael Ruschak. For shooting a third man in the leg, Allred was sentenced to life in prison.

"He's never once said he's sorry," said Janice Ruschak, the mother of Michael Ruschak. "He does know he did something that was legally wrong and he should be punished and he thinks the death penalty is the right punishment. But he's not sorry he did what he did."

Allred murdered Barwick and Ruschak on Sept. 24, 2007. Barwick and Allred had been dating for about a year, and they broke up on Allred's 21st birthday in August.

After that, Allred began stalking Barwick. He hacked into her Facebook and MySpace accounts, sending profane messages to Tiffany's family, pretending to be her, according to police reports.

He got into her bank account and told Michael that the next time he saw him, he was going to kill him. Both Ruschak and Barwick went to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office and asked for help, but deputies said there wasn't enough evidence for an arrest.

Hours later, Allred came to the house in Oviedo and killed Ruschak and Barwick.

"Your life never goes back to normal," Janice Ruschak said. "You can't ever fix the changes that have been made. But I won't be watching the docket anymore."

When Allred drove his truck to the house on Shady Oak Lane in Oviedo, he repeatedly rammed his truck into Barwick's car. He tried to come through the front door but couldn't.

He shot out the sliding glass door in the back, walked past a group of friends he knew, and shot Michael Ruschak in the kitchen. Eric Roberts, who was renting the house where Michael lived, grabbed Allred and tried to wrestle the gun from him, ultimately getting shot in the leg.

Then Allred shot Ruschak two more times, went into the bathroom where Barwick was hiding and shot her seven times. Tiffany died while on the phone with 911.

Both Kimberly Barwick and Tony Barwick were at the sentencing. They told a crowd of reporters after the sentencing that Allred was no longer in their lives.

Both families said they would attend the execution. Allred's case will get an automatic appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

"You really can't get closure," Chuck Ruschak said.

The Ruschak family has filed an notice of intent with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, saying the police department should have intervened before the murders. While damages aren't yet specific, the family is seeking more than $15,000.

Both Chuck and Janice have said there's still some anger toward the department.

"Things could have been different," Chuck Ruschak said. "The character and courage my son showed could have been shown three and a half hours earlier that evening."

Janice said she saw Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger on television news last week; the Sheriff's Office was announcing a new GPS program to track domestic violence offenders in real time.

"There's still a good bit of 'I don't think it should happen,'" Janice said. "I don't think they go above and beyond to protect and serve. And they should. I do that in my business, and I think they should in theirs. And they would expect it if it was their family member."

The Barwick family said the sentence brings them closure, that Allred is out of their lives. Chuck Ruschak said he would rather Allred spend the rest of his life in prison.

"I think part of that just shows how much of a coward he is," Janice said. "I think that's why he's asking for the death penalty, because he can't do it himself but he thinks it's the right thing to do."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Budget cuts hit public defender

Office may start declining cases; state would have to pick up slack

By Nic Corbett

The public defender for the 2nd Judicial Circuit may decide next month to stop representing defendants in some misdemeanor and traffic cases, depending on whether more is cut from the office's budget.

Public Defender Nancy Daniels says her office saw an 8.5-percent cut from last fiscal year to the present one. Another 2-percent reduction happened this fiscal year. Meanwhile, case loads are increasing

"Certainly, having the public defender decline cases is not favored by the Legislature and will end up costing more state money if the cases cannot be absorbed by the new regional conflict offices," she wrote in a letter last month to Chief Judge Charles Francis. "If we are not able to enact some measures that reduce the number of cases our office is appointed to, however, we will have no other alternative."

She said that if her office decides to go forward with the move, the state would have to pay to hire private attorneys to represent the defendants. Other circuits in Florida are taking similar steps.

Right now, the four assistant public defenders assigned to County Court have a case load each of 250 cases or more — a jump of 30 percent over the past couple of years. Daniels said the situation is the worst she's seen in 18 years of service.

But others in the judicial system say that everyone's in the same situation. Cuts are across the board, straining everyone and causing workloads to increase.

"It's affecting everyone, not just here, but statewide," Francis said. "The bottom line is we are all in the same boat here. We have already taken pretty heavy cuts. We're like the Legislature. I don't think they know what the next step is."

Judges are trying to be considerate, Francis said. They're making accommodations for later court appearances and not doubling up on the court docket.

"All the judges individually are doing all they can to assist in their own divisions," he said.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Jackie Fulford said her office is not going to stop prosecuting any cases, even though budget cuts mean prosecutors are short-staffed, too.

"It just means we all have to roll up our sleeves and work a little bit harder," she said.

She said most misdemeanor and traffic cases are resolved at arraignment before a public defender is appointed. But she understands that the Public Defender's Office is worried about not being able to adequately represent indigent clients. Bigger workloads in both offices mean people are going to make mistakes, she said.

"It's going to cause problems in the judicial system," Fulford said.

Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom has seen several lawyers from both offices go to the hospital because of burnout.

"My sense is that the public defenders and the prosecutors are terribly overworked, understaffed, worse than I've ever seen it," Sjostrom said. "You can only ask people to work unreasonable hours and unreasonable demands for so long, and people start getting sick."

If the Public Defender's Office does decide to decline certain cases, it will be following in the steps of other circuits. Miami-Dade County's public defender is refusing to represent all new felony cases that don't involve the death penalty. A judge in September ruled that the office could do so, but the case has been appealed.

Before she makes her decision, Daniels said she is waiting on a third-quarter release of the budget in late December. Her office has been told that some of the funds held back will be restored that quarter.


Justice moving slowly in Taylor case


A year after Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was shot and killed, one of the young men accused of the slaying has pleaded guilty to murder and four others are awaiting a trial that may not occur for years.
Murder cases typically take more than a year to go to trial in Miami, and cases with multiple defendants are particularly time-consuming, experts say.

Taylor's family is eager to see the case resolved, but they understand that justice can be slow, according to family friend and Taylor's one-time attorney, Richard Sharpstein.

''The family continues to support the prosecution and hopes that justice is done in this case, sometime in the not-too-distant future,'' he said.

Venjah Hunte, 21, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for a promised sentence of 29 years. Prosecutors may require him to testify against the other four men.

Hunte's attorney, Michael Hornung, said his client was just the driver and never even went into Taylor's Palmetto Bay home the night he was killed.

The other defendants -- accused gunman Eric Rivera, 18; Jason Mitchell, 20; Charles Wardlow, 19;, and Timmy Lee Brown, 17 -- are all jailed in Miami-Dade County. All face first-degree murder charges.

Veteran defense lawyer Terry Lenamon said that before defense attorneys can even begin to take depositions and conduct independent investigations, prosecutors have to gather up all the evidence and turn it over to the defense.

''The discovery process is very complicated. Usually in a case that involves an extensive investigation, it takes a minimum of three to six months for the lead detective to get his reports together,'' Lenamon said. ``The whole team of investigators has to provide their notes, any sworn statements they took and their reports.''

Lenamon was among 10 attorneys representing five young men accused of kidnapping, gang raping and killing Ana Maria Angel, a Miami teenager, in 2002. Four of the men were tried and convicted, the last of them earlier this year. The fifth is still awaiting trial.

In the Taylor case, prosecutors have already turned over hundreds of pages of police reports, phone records and other evidence gathered by Miami-Dade detectives, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Fort Myers police. All five accused men are from the Fort Myers area.

''Miami-Dade [police] are very thorough in their investigation,'' Lenamon said. ``There is always a lot of material in a case of theirs.''

Prosecutors waived the death penalty for the five defendants in May, a move that eliminates several issues that often delay cases.

But because the remaining four defendants are facing life in prison, defense attorneys are likely to file an avalanche of motions that Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy will have to consider before trial. Among the possible issues:

• Can statements that three of the defendants -- Rivera, Mitchell and Hunte -- gave police be used at trial?

• Can what Rivera allegedly told a fellow inmate, robbery suspect Adyam Devillafuerte, be used against him or any of the other defendants? Prosecutors have not revealed what Rivera allegedly told Devillafuerte.

• Can the contents of a letter Rivera allegedly wrote to a 17-year-old friend in Fort Myers be used? Prosecutors have not publicly released the letter.

Very little new information has been released to the public since the first weeks after Taylor was killed in front of his girlfriend and their baby. Extensive media coverage of the case last winter prompted Judge Murphy to issue a gag order, prohibiting defense attorneys or the prosecutor from talking about the case.

Records show investigators believe Mitchell was involved in an earlier break-in at Taylor's home. He had been there and seen Taylor give his sister thousands of dollars for her birthday.

Doctor Sentenced to 33 Years in Prison for Child Porn

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

A Florida family practice doctor has been sentenced to 33 years and nine months in prison for receipt and possession of child pornography, the latest in a long line of child pornography cases brought by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Dr. Richard Carino was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after being found guilty on July 10.

Carino, from New Port Richey, Florida, was apparently turned in by his wife at the time after she discovered child pornography on his home computer in mid-2005. Carino's wife, Autumn, also pointed out to investigators marijuana that was allegedly her husband's, according to a story in the St. Petersburg Times.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents searched Carino's computer with his wife's permission, the DOJ said in a press release. Investigators found evidence of child pornography in both Carino's home and office computers, including videos and images of child pornography, and logs and relevant file names associated with Kazaa, a P-to-P (peer-to-peer) file-sharing program.

By examining Kazaa logs recovered from Carino's office computer, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to identify additional child pornography videos that had once been stored on that computer, the DOJ said.

Carino's sentence is part of a nationwide crackdown on child pornography launched by the DOJ in mid-2006. In the past month, 13 other U.S. residents have been sentenced on child pornography charges, five have been

charged or indicted, four have pleaded guilty, and an Alabama man was convicted on a charge of producing child pornography, according to information from the FBI.

In addition, a Washington state man due to be sentenced on Nov. 17 for receipt of child pornography cut off his ankle bracelet tracking device and apparently fled the state.

Carino was charged in January with six counts related to child pornography. The first four counts charged him with possession and receipt of child pornography related to the July 2005, searches of his home and office. He also was charged with two counts of possession and receipt relating to the August 2005, seizure of his home computer. The jury convicted him on all six charges.

Carino was also investigated in 2005 by the DEA for working with an Internet pharmacy to illegally prescribe medications.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Attorney: Case Against Casey Difficult To Prove Without Body

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Local 6 News reporter Tony Pipitone continued his investigation into the Casey Anthony first-degree murder case by presenting the known facts to a former assistant state attorney and a prominent defense attorney.

Anthony, 22, remains jailed in the disappearance of her 3-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was last seen in mid-June.

Pipitone presented questions to former assistant state attorney Elizabeth Rahter and longtime criminal defense attorney Cheney Mason.

"First, the venue. Where the trial should be held," Pipitone said. "From the defense side, is it in your interest to move this trial out of the county?"

"Well, it may very well be. But what county would you move it to that hasn't been saturated with this story," Mason said. "Prosecutions usually -- almost without exception -- oppose a change of venue."

"Elizabeth, would you oppose it?" Pipitone asked.

"Yes, I would make the same arguments he made. You can't go anywhere," Rahter said.

Mason said seeking a change of venue could undercut another possible defense strategy, the demand for a speedy trial.

Anthony was indicted Oct. 14, meaning the state has 175 days -- until April 7 -- to start her trial, unless Anthony decides to waive her right.

"As a defense attorney, do you want a speedy trial in a case like this, where there's no body?" Pipitone said.

"That's an interesting question. Without the body, the state's going to have an enormous burden, and I don't think they can prove the case," Mason said. "I would certainly give strong consideration to moving on to trial without delay."

"As a prosecutor, why would you even go to a grand jury without a body and force yourself to try this case?" Pipitone asked Rahter.

"It's a lot better to deal with witnesses while they're fresh. And the problem with a lot of murder cases is they take years to try, and if you wait that long then their memories start to fade," Rahter said.

"They thought that by bringing an indictment, charging first-degree murder, which could potentially lead to the death penalty that that would be coercive enough to cause this defendant to start talking," Mason said.

"It's the first day of your speedy trial, Elizabeth. No medical examiner, no body. What do you have?" Pipitone asked.

"So you're missing a key witness, and so you deal with it. You work around it," Rahter said. "You have Cindy (Anthony, Casey Anthony's mother), who smelled the dead body and said it smelled like a dead body. You have George (Anthony, Casey Anthony's father), who used to be a deputy, and says it smelled like a dead body. You have K-9 dogs that alerted on the car. And so there's a dead body. The question is: How many dead bodies does Casey Anthony drive around in her car?"

Mason said it's very difficult to prove a murder case without a body.

"There's absolutely no evidence other than somebody saying they think they smelled what smelled like a dead body," Mason said. "What if they're right? What if there is a dead body? Does that prove there's an unlawful killing? The answer is no, because every homicide is not murder. This child could have accidentally died any number of ways, and they'll never be able to prove without a body or a confession."

Pipitone said the state does have scientific evidence that it could use, including chemicals indicating a decomposing human body were found in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car.

"They're going to have to present evidence to convince the court that such tests are generally accepted by the scientific community. And since you've called me, I've inquired. I'm not aware of a single case that's been admitted anywhere," Mason said.

"So this is hocus pocus science?" Pipitone said.

"Yes. I'd just have to agree with that," Mason said.

"How can I put this person on trial for her life when the scientific evidence has not been used anywhere else?" Pipitone asked Rahter.

"They have to show that it's accepted in the scientific community. It's hard, a high hurdle in Florida to pass," she said.

"So that's going to be tough for the prosecution?" Pipitone said.

"Yeah, but it's helpful that it's corroborated," Rahter said.

A hair pulled from the car trunk was consistent in length and color with Caylee's hair, showing signs of decomposition, Pipitone said. DNA tests reveal the hair came from Caylee or any of her maternal ancestors, from her mother to her great-grandmother, Pipitone said.

"Is that not evidence of death?" Pipitone asked Mason.

"I don't believe it necessarily is. They can certainly argue it, but I don't think it proves it's a death. It's proving it's an old hair with some tissue that has decomposed," Mason said.

"He's good. He's tearing apart the state's case here, and basically says there is no case," Pipitone said.

"Every case is circumstantial," Rahter said. It has to be caught on videotape, right? Otherwise, it's circumstantial. Right? So here you have the smell of a dead body, you have chloroform in the trunk, you have somebody who's continually covering stuff up, making up lies, spewing stuff forth and somebody that's missing. You prove it like every other case."

"Without the body, the state is really in a hole," Mason said. "Really, really bad without the body."

A challenge but not impossible, the former prosecutor said.

Anthony Book Deal

Local 6 News confirmed that George and Cindy Anthony are planning to write a book, but a deal is not yet in place.

The book will not be a tell-all about the case involving their missing granddaughter, Local 6 News reported.

The book will focus on what families should do if their child is missing.

Tour Of Anthony Home

Local 6 News reporter Jessica D'Onofrio was granted an exclusive tour of the home of Casey Anthony's parents, who say they have proof that their granddaughter, Caylee, is still alive.

Casey Anthony and her daughter lived in the Orange County home of George and Cindy Anthony, although Casey Anthony often stayed elsewhere, sometimes with Caylee.

"Having Thanksgiving come, it's not going to be our normal, you know, our normal Thanksgiving," Cindy Anthony said.

"A lot of people want to say, 'Cindy and George are in such denial. Why can't they see it the way we see it?'" D'Onofrio said.

"Until I know 100 percent, I am not going to give up," Cindy Anthony said. "There's no concrete evidence. There's only circumstantial evidence."

Cindy Anthony told D'Onofrio that Orange County sheriff's detectives admitted to her that the evidence found in Casey Anthony's car -- the smell of death, a stain, decomposition of human remains -- does not prove that Caylee is dead or that Casey Anthony killed her.

Cindy Anthony said she's upset that the sheriff's office has apparently rushed to judgment by not searching for Caylee.

"Elizabeth Smart. The police department there thought she was dead, but yet they followed up and brought Elizabeth home to Ed Smart," Cindy Anthony said.

Elizabeth Smart was found alive nine months after she was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in 2003.

Cindy Anthony recounted the days when her daughter was first bailed out of jail.

"Casey didn't want to come in (her bedroom) at first because this is where she and Caylee spent most of their time," Cindy Anthony said. "We got an air mattress and she wanted to stay in our room -- and we have a big enough bedroom that she had a big enough space -- for the whole first week."

Casey Anthony's bedroom is covered with pictures of Caylee, from ultrasound images to her birth and several pictures of them together.

"It became more comforting for her to be here. She'd sleep with (her) Teddy (bear). And it was hard. Very, very hard," Cindy Anthony said.

Cindy Anthony said her daughter watched TV while she was home, including local news the day stories were being aired about tests indicating that a dead body was likely in her car trunk.

A woman who was staying with the family and monitoring Casey Anthony's release from jail said Casey Anthony reacted to the stories by saying, "Several people borrowed my car in the past."

Protesters were camped out in front of the Anthony home at that time, and Cindy Anthony said Casey Anthony peered out of a window the night her father got into a heated argument. Casey Anthony called 911, urging authorities to arrest the protesters.

Cindy Anthony said going into Caylee's room is not easy to do.

"This is Caylee's room. It's very hard to come into now. And people are going to start to send Christmas presents already to Caylee," Cindy Anthony said. "I open the door a couple of times a week. I was in her room earlier today, sitting and reflecting and crying."

Cindy Anthony said she will likely go Christmas shopping for Caylee, too.

"I think about the days she'd go into her little cottage and she'd ring the little doorbell and she'd go, 'Ding dong," said George Anthony from his back yard.

Casey Anthony's brother, Lee, 26, who was visible when Caylee first went missing, has not been seen as much lately.

"He's trying to sustain his income for himself. I mean, he hasn't worked for two-plus months. It's hard for him to work every single day," George Anthony said. "This can tear a family apart if you let it."

The Anthonys said they have proof that Caylee is alive, and they plan on holding a news conference later this week to discuss the details.

"Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to get more information out of George and Cindy with little success," D'Onofrio said. "They believe they have a lot of information they're keeping from them. Detectives still want to talk to Cindy about the smelly clothes in Casey's car she washed. They also believe George and Lee know more than they're willing to share."

Cindy Anthony refused to talk about pictures showing her daughter partying at clubs while Caylee was missing.

Witness List Released

The state's witness list in the first-degree murder case of Casey Anthony was released on Tuesday.

The list of potential witnesses who could be called to testify in the trial, which is scheduled to begin in January, contained 82 names, including Anthony's parents and her brother.

The state also named Casey Anthony's most-recent boyfriend, Tony Lazarro, several of her friends and the Anthony's neighbor from whom Casey Anthony borrowed a shovel.

Several workers were listed as well, including the manager of the Orange County Amscot where Casey Anthony abandoned her car, employees of the impound lot who towed the car, which was described as reeking of death, and employees of the Sawgrass Apartments, where Casey Anthony claims she left her daughter with a baby sitter.

Zenaida Gonzalez, a woman who has the same name as the baby sitter with whom Casey Anthony told investigators she left Caylee with, has also been named as a potential witness.

Although Caylee's great-grandfather was not named as a witness, his wife is on the list. She and two employees of the great-grandfather's nursing home could be asked to testify about seeing Caylee the day before she was last seen.

The manager of the Altamonte Springs Chuck E. Cheese's is also named. A possible Caylee sighting was reported at the restaurant, although surveillance video proved differently.

Local 6 News reported that some names not appearing on the potential witness list came as a surprise.

Numerous Orange County sheriff's investigators are on the list, but no one from the University of Tennessee "body farm," the Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the FBI -- all of whom analyzed key evidence from Casey Anthony's car and concluded that a dead body had been in the trunk -- were listed.

The state could add witnesses later, however.

Anthony has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter and four counts of lying to investigators.

Gag Order Hearing Reset

A hearing on a prosecutor's request for a gag order in the case has been reset.

On Nov. 25, an Orange County Circuit judge will also hear requests from the defense to reveal evidence and from the Orlando Sentinel, which opposes the gag order in the first-degree murder case against Casey Anthony.

Casey Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, also wants more tips of Caylee sightings that were phoned into law enforcement, more information about the hair found in Casey Anthony's car trunk and the name and work schedule of every employee of the Amscot.

Caylee Follower Gains Fame

A man obsessed with missing child cases has become an Internet celebrity after purchasing an old TV news live truck, mounting cameras to its mast and broadcasting live images from areas involved in the search for Caylee on his Web site.

William Murtaugh, known as "Murt" on the Internet, said he is not alone in his thirst for coverage about Caylee.

"There are people out there who are literally addicted to Caylee," Murtaugh said. "The commercial media cannot provide everything we want. We want more. We're addicted to it," Murtaugh said.

Murt's Web site -- -- serves as a home for armchair cybersleuths, and he said the TV truck he purchased has made a big difference.

"It looks neat. It gets me in with you guys. Instead of pulling up in an old Cadillac, I can pull up in this thing and you're more or less accepting of it," Murtaugh said.

Murt has mounted surveillance cameras to the truck's 60-foot-tall mast, allowing him to send images to his Web site, which also contains a chatroom for his users.

"They'll say, 'Murt, move the camera. Jesse Grund (Casey Anthony's former boyfriend) is over here' or they'll say, 'Murt, there's a lady with a sign over there,'" Murtaugh said.

When Murt is not at a search scene involving the case, he takes his truck to places like the Anthony family home, the Sawgrass Apartments and other Caylee-related locations.

Murt, who is a professional truck driver and car dealer, said his Web site is only a hobby.

"It's not about me. It's about Caylee," Murtaugh said.

Murt said about 3,000 users visit his Web site, but he also has detractors, who say it's strange that a man follows a case so closely or believe that he will try to profit off the case.

Murt also once claimed online that he knew the abductor of Trenton Duckett, the boy in an unsolved missing child case in Central Florida. Murt apologized for the stunt, calling it an amateur attempt to crack the case.

Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.

Murder Suspect Ruled Mentally Incompetent


Hernando Today

A judge ruled Thursday that a man suspected of fatally shooting his friend in the face is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Circuit Judge Jack Springstead based his decision on the opinions of three separate psychologists and testimony about Joshua Langley's mental history.

Langley, who is charged with first degree murder, is currently on medication to curb hallucinations and has been previously diagnosed with a delusional disorder, his attorney, Candace Hawthorn, said during a 30-minute hearing.

He has also accused the prosecutor in the case, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, of being a Ku Klux Klan member. The normally unflappable Magrino sounded upset when he stated "for the record" during the hearing that he has never been a member of the KKK and he takes "great umbrage" at the accusation.

Hawthorn apologized on behalf of Langley and added by way of context that her client has accused her of being Hitler's granddaughter.

Springstead also took into consideration that the prosecution is asking for the death penalty should Langley be convicted in the Dec. 4, 2006, murder of Jacques Jones.

The judge stressed the importance of being "extremely cautious in every respect."

Magrino told the judge that he has seen no evidence of Langley's past problems, aside from a visit to the Harbor Behavioral Institute in 2004.

Two of the psychologists were certain that Langley was incompetent for trial, while the third had "serious reservations" about the subject, Magrino said.

That latter doctor has experience in the Florida Department of Corrections and can tell apart "career criminals with a violent history" and persons with mental disabilities, he said.

Court records show Langley has a local criminal history dating back to an arrest at age 15 on charges of aggravated assault and improper exhibition of a firearm. Other charges in his past include battery, false imprisonment and robbery.

Jones was shot in the face outside the home of Langley's aunt on Whitman Road, north of Brooksville. Authorities determined Jones had withheld money from Langley after a robbery and that Langley intended to "straighten him out," according to a report.

Hawthorne said Thursday that Langley has been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. The disorder is characterized by a dysfunctional disregard for concepts of right and wrong, according to

Langley was scheduled to stand trial the week of Oct. 13, but the morning of jury selection he decided to represent himself. Springstead ordered him to undergo psychological evaluation.

Another hearing is scheduled for December to make sure Langley is receiving the treatment he needs. After that, a status conference will be held every six months to decide whether Langley can handle trial.

Lavonne Southall, Langley's aunt, said after the hearing that she was glad that her nephew would be getting the help he had always needed.

Asked if she though Langley was suffering from mental issues at the time of the murder, Southall replied: "He had to have been."

Orlando man sentenced to 3 life terms for 2002 slayings

Ludmilla Lelis

Sentinel Staff Writer

November 20, 2008


A second jury was convinced of his guilt, but stopped short of recommending a death sentence for Roy Lee McDuffie, the Orlando man convicted of killing two co-workers and robbing a Deltona Dollar General store.

McDuffie, 45, on Wednesday received two consecutive life sentences in the deaths of Janice Schneider and Dawniell Beauregard, a third life term for robbing the store of $7,000, and an additional 15 years for holding Beauregard against her will.

The jury for his retrial recommended life in prison, unlike the first jury, which unanimously agreed he should be executed.

Several family members of the victims thought it was unfair that he wouldn't get the death penalty, but Schneider's sister, Kelli Lee, understood their decision.

"I only wanted death for him because he killed my sister. But I can't say that if I was on any other jury that I could vote for death," Lee said.

"I just wish I had answers from him. Why?"

McDuffie got a second trial for the 2002 killings when the Florida Supreme Court threw out his first conviction. The case was moved out of Volusia County to find an impartial jury.

For nearly four weeks, a St. Johns County jury learned about the bloody scene in the cramped back office of the store on Oct. 25, 2002. Beauregard was bound with duct tape, her throat was slashed and she was shot in the head at close range. Schneider was slashed in the neck and was shot in her abdomen and in her head.

McDuffie was the last person with them, and prosecutors showed time gaps in his whereabouts that night. Despite his desperate financial situation, he was flush with cash after the killings. And his palm print was found on a piece of duct tape that bound Beauregard's hands.

It was enough to convict him both times. However, the St. Augustine jury took more than 12 hours to agree he was guilty and on Wednesday, at least half of the jurors didn't want him executed.

McDuffie's attorney, Rob Sanders, thought some jurors may have had doubts. The defense focused on problems with the evidence -- whether the duct tape was reconstructed properly, whether investigators ignored leads and whether unidentified DNA evidence pointed to other culprits.

"They wrestled for 12 1/2 hours, guilty or not guilty," Sanders said. "I think this was a compromise verdict."

McDuffie didn't take the stand this time and didn't want his family to testify during the penalty phase. The second trial also lacked jailhouse informants from the first trial.

And Assistant State Attorney Colleen Taylor said this second jury also didn't hear about McDuffie's long history of felony convictions, or the lies he told to get the job.

"They have a very different picture of the defendant as a person," Taylor said. "The first jury knew more about him. They knew more about the real Roy Lee McDuffie."

Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at or 386-253-0964.

Prosecutor Prepares For 6 Death Penalty Cases


Highlands Today

Death penalty cases, by their very nature, are significantly different court proceedings than, say, a drug trafficking case.

For one, defense attorneys have to meet a certain set of qualifications, according to Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin.

"They have to have certain training and a certain amount of experience," he said. "No such requirements for the prosecutors. The judges also have to have special training and certification to hear death penalty cases."

Houchin certainly has his hands full with these, having filed notices of intent to seek the death penalty in six first-degree murder cases in Highlands County.

The first to go to trial is the case of Joshua Lee Altersberger, 20, who is accused of shooting to death Sgt. Nicholas Sottile with the Florida Highway Patrol during a Jan. 12, 2007 traffic stop in Highlands County. A status jury trial is scheduled for March 6, with the jury trial set to begin March 16.

Before that, death penalty motions will be heard in Altersberger's case Dec. 19 in Bartow in front of Judge Michael J. Hunter.

"If we file the notice, if it begins to get close to time for trial, the defense will file a series of motions attacking the constitutionality of the death penalty," Houchin said.

Other Death Penalty Cases

Besides Altersberger, Houchin has filed a notice of intent seeking death for five other defendants.

Joseph Paul Graham, 19, is charged in connection with the Nov. 24, 2007 shooting death of Samuel Tiller, 82, who was killed in his house while the defendant and two others were allegedly in the process of burglarizing it.

Both Brandon Johns, 29, and Terrance Barnett, 27, are accused of binding Bryan Edward "Red" Fanning inside his home and then burning it on Aug. 22, 2007.

Thirdly, Donald Henry, 37, faces accusations that he shot to death Hugh Andrew Marks, who was found Jan. 7 near the intersection of Garrett Road and Alabama Avenue in Avon Park.

Finally, Andrew Kalinowski, 21, is charged with shooting both Walter Enrique Vilchez and Jose Franklin Escalante, with the former dying as a result of his injuries.

The Time To Seek Death

When it comes to seeking the death penalty, Houchin said Florida statute requires that, on top of it being a first-degree murder case, certain aggravating circumstances must exist.

"There's about a dozen aggravating circumstances that you can consider above and beyond the fact it's a first-degree murder (case), such as heinous, atrocious and cruel, in other words, unnecessary suffering like you might have in the Bryan Fanning case," Houchin said. "The fact that the victim's a law enforcement officer is one of them."

Other aggravating circumstances include the capital felony being committed while the defendant was in the commission of another crime, like burglary, or the crime being a homicide that was committed in a "cold, calculated and premeditated manner," according to state statutes.

"The law is simply that the aggravating circumstances must outweigh any mitigating circumstances," Houchin said. "It's a balancing act."

Mitigating circumstances include the defendant having no significant prior criminal history, committing the crime while under "extreme mental or emotional disturbance" and the age at the time of the alleged crime.

The Long Haul

Death penalty cases are also infamous for their length, with most lasting anywhere from two to three weeks, according to Houchin.

"In long cases, the harder part for finding jurors is finding people who can spend two or three weeks out of work," he said.

The trials are more involved, since the defense brings in a second attorney to assist and witnesses are often brought in from out of state, Houchin said.

Death penalty cases can also happen in two phases. Part one would consist of the jury unanimously finding a defendant guilty of first-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt.

If the trial gets this far, part two will have both sides show aggravating and mitigating evidence for the jury to consider when recommending a sentence.

"It does not have to be a unanimous vote, but they make a recommendation to the judge, life or death, and then it's the judge's final decision in weighing these aggravating circumstances," Houchin said.


Of course, sentencing a defendant to death can be an expensive endeavor. Enforcing the death penalty costs Florida $51 million a year above what it would cost to punish all first-degree murderers with life in prison without parole, according to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

Based on the 44 executions the state had carried out since 1976, that comes to $24 million for each execution, according to information from a Jan. 4, 2000 edition of the Palm Beach Post.

The Sunshine State has put 66 inmates to death since 1976, including two so far this year, according to DPIC statistics. In 2007, Florida executed no death row prisoners.

Death May Not Always Be The Case

Even though a notice seeking the death penalty may be filed, Houchin said it can be taken back at some point if the case warrants it.

That is not going to be the case in the upcoming Altersberger trial.

"We recently sent the defense a short little letter saying we would not consider anything but death," Houchin said.

Female inmate claims rape

Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- A woman who spent a night at the county correctional facility says she was raped by one or more female corrections officers, a sheriff's incident report shows.

The woman, arrested for misdemeanor retail theft, is not being identified because it is a sexual assault complaint. She was booked into the Volusia County Correctional Facility the night of Nov. 4, but returned to the jail Nov. 11 to file a formal complaint against the officers, the incident report shows.

According to the incident report, after her 10:45 p.m. booking and cell assignment, the woman, who said she has gestational diabetes, complained of low blood sugar and asked to be taken to the jail infirmary, the report states. But her request was ignored, and she was taken to her cell.

A few minutes later, the woman felt dizzy and fell on the floor of her cell, the report shows. She said four officers entered her dormitory and began slapping her and pulling her hair.

At that point, the officers took her to the medical unit and staff there checked on her, then proclaimed the woman was "faking it," the report states.

Instead of being escorted back to her cell, however, the woman said she was taken to another area of the jail and placed in a suicide-watch cell by the officers.

The officers ordered her to disrobe for a strip search, the report states. Once she did that, the woman said one of the officers pinned her legs down, while a second officer took her underwear off and sexually battered the woman with her hand, the report shows.

While that was going on, the woman said yet another officer "aggressively" groped her breasts to the point of pain, the report shows.

A fourth officer stood in the cell and watched, the woman said in her complaint.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office was called by jail officials because a criminal complaint was made, sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson said.

However, the criminal portion of the investigation has been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Davidson said, because the complaints were filed against law enforcement officers. The FDLE also handles investigations concerning in-custody victims, Davidson said.

The county's Department of Corrections, meanwhile, will handle the internal affairs investigation of the officers, Volusia County spokesman Dave Byron said. The four officers have not been suspended from their posts while the investigations are under way.

Byron said there have been no such allegations at the correctional facility in the past year. He also said two other corrections officers are currently the focus of other internal affairs investigations in unrelated incidents.

For 'Junior' Gotti, it's all about trial's location

CNN) -- John "Junior" Gotti's lawyers are asking a federal judge in Florida to move his murder conspiracy and racketeering trial to New York.

Gotti, son of the late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, was indicted earlier this year by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida.

"There is strong evidence to support the conclusion that the government's decision to bring this case in Tampa is another in a string of tactical maneuvers designed to deny Gotti his right to a fair trial in what has become an epic quest to convict him," Gotti's attorneys wrote in a motion seeking a transfer of the case.

Gotti's three previous racketeering trials were in New York, where they resulted in mistrials.

A hearing was held Thursday before U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, according to court records. Merryday took the matter under advisement and said a written ruling would be issued later.

Charles Carnesi, Gotti's defense attorney in New York, and Henry Gonzalez, Gotti's defense attorney in Florida, did not return CNN's calls Friday.

Gotti was among six people indicted in July by a grand jury in Florida. The indictments were unsealed and Gotti was arrested in August.

The indictment alleges Gotti was involved in three slayings in New York City: George Grosso died in December 1988 in Queens; Louis DiBono was killed in October 1990 in the parking garage of the former World Trade Center; and Bruce John Gotterup was slain in November 1991 in Queens.

All six defendants were charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The law is used to target organized crime groups -- in this case, the Gambino crime family.

In addition to racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder, Gotti also is charged with drug trafficking.

The indictment alleges Gotti, 44, of Oyster Bay, New York, has been an associate, soldier, captain and de facto boss in the organization, as well as a member of a captains' committee formed in the early 1990s to assist in the administration of the family.

Gotti has long said he is retired and no longer involved in organized crime.

Defense attorneys say in their motion that the events at issue probably occurred in New York -- including the three slayings, the most serious of the charges.

In addition, they said, all of the defense witnesses and most of the prosecution witnesses live in or near New York, and Gotti, "who is not even alleged to have set foot in the Middle District of Florida, may well be unable to bear the considerable expense of trying this case 1,200 miles from home."

At the time of Gotti's arrest, Robert O'Neill, the U.S. attorney in the district that includes Tampa, said the Gambino crime family, or GCF, worked to "establish and maintain GCF enterprise footholds, or operational bases, in various parts of the United States of America, specifically including the city of Tampa, Florida."

But Gotti's attorneys say in their court papers that there is an "utter lack of a palpable connection to Tampa" and that the newest case against Gotti is a "last-ditch effort to overcome [prosecutors'] three-time losing streak," a reference to the three mistrials.

Trying Gotti in Florida, they say, is an attempt "to isolate him from his lawyers and the resources that he needs to defend himself effectively."

In their response, federal prosecutors say they plan to subpoena more than 20 people "with knowledge related to the charged criminal activity in Tampa" and argue that, among other reasons, moving the case "would disrupt the government's efforts in other cases and a related investigation."

Trying the case in Tampa would make it easier to address and handle security concerns, prosecutors also said, and "the victims of the most violent specified criminal conduct charged in the case concur in the case proceeding in the Middle District of Florida."

If convicted, Gotti and his co-defendants would face a maximum sentence of life in prison. One co-defendant could receive the death penalty.

In late 2006, a third mistrial was declared in a federal racketeering case against Gotti, with charges including racketeering and extortion.

Prosecutors said they would not retry Gotti, who was accused of ordering attacks on radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa after the Guardian Angels founder criticized Gotti's father on his program. Sliwa was shot three times but recovered and testified against Gotti.

At the time of his latest arrest, attorney Carnesi told reporters that Gotti "was very disappointed to have to go through all this again. You can imagine the toll it took on him and his family to have to fight three times in the course of a year, to feel that, OK, perhaps it's over ... because the government itself came to the conclusion, no more. It's very disheartening for him to be back here again."

Gotti's father was nicknamed the "Teflon Don" because prosecutors had trouble making charges against him stick. He died in prison of throat cancer in 2002.

Kinlaw's family pleads for mercy

November 21, 2008

Kinlaw's family pleads for mercy

By Teresa Stepzinski,
The Times-Union

BRUNSWICK - Convicted killer Harold Dean Kinlaw brushed at the corner of his eyes Thursday as his aunt wept while detailing the vicious beatings he'd suffered as a child, and then begged a Glynn County jury to spare his life.

Kinlaw, 57, of White Oak, faces the death penalty or life in prison for ambushing and gunning down a federal agent, who was his ex-wife's lover, at a garage sale four years ago.

The jury Monday found Kinlaw guilty of malice murder in the Jan. 18, 2004, slaying of Felipe Herrera, a 61-year-old U.S. Customs agent who taught Spanish at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center north of Brunswick.

The jury also found Kinlaw guilty of kidnapping 43-year-old Damaris Kinlaw, the third of his ex-wives, of aggravated assault, aggravated stalking and two counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime. In addition, jurors convicted Kinlaw of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Kinlaw's attorneys, Kevin Gough and Ron Harrison, began presenting evidence Thursday intended to convince the jury to impose a life sentence, the only alternative to death Georgia law allows in a malice murder conviction.

Kinlaw's aunt, Mary Keck, 65, who helped raise him, was the first of 11 witnesses to testify on his behalf. She told jurors that as a boy, Kinlaw tried to protect his mother and his baby sister from his biological father who beat them all nearly to death on several occasions.

"I think his father's abuse affected him psychologically," Keck said.

Keck also testified that Kinlaw's personality changed, and he became withdrawn and uncommunicative after being critically injured in an automobile accident when he was 17. During a later car trip to Florida, Kinlaw got very agitated with her because she wanted to stop for the night, Keck said.

"I was scared a little bit of him, and I had never been before," Keck testified. "He was like a different person. Like he was under some kind of pressure."

Bursting into tears, Keck pleaded with jurors to show him mercy.

"I'm asking you to spare his life. I'm not too proud to beg you for his life. I love my nephew very much ... He has a lot of good in him," she said.

Kinlaw wasn't named among the witnesses that Gough, in his opening statement, told jurors would be testifying.

However, Kinlaw's mother, sister and several friends will testify for him. In addition, an Atlanta psychiatrist will testify that people like Kinlaw who were subjected to domestic violence as children "can grow up to do horrible things," Gough said.

"The evidence will show Harold Kinlaw never had a chance. He was doomed almost before he was even born," Gough said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Before resting Wednesday afternoon, they presented evidence showing Kinlaw has a history of brutality against women spanning 34 years including beating, raping and stalking his three former wives and two ex-girlfriends.

Herrera's three daughters also told jurors how their father's slaying has devastated their lives.

The jury is expected to begin deliberating on Kinlaw's sentence this afternoon., (912) 264-0405

Allred sentenced to death

Nov. 21, 2008

By Jenny Andreasson
The Voice

Andrew Allred, 22, was sentenced to death Wednesday, Nov. 19, in the murders of ex-girlfriend Tiffany Barwick and friend Michael Ruschak, according to a State Attorney's Office spokeswoman.

Allred had wanted the death penalty all along, spokeswoman Lynne Bumpus-Hooper said. There will be a mandatory appeal to the Florida Supreme Court but "with him not objecting to the penalty it could come sooner rather than later

Man gets death for cyberstalking, killing his girlfriend and friend

Rene Stutzman

Sentinel Staff Writer


A judge today gave the death penalty to a 22-year-old Oviedo man to who cyberstalked his girlfriend after she dumped him then tracked her down and killed her and a friend.

Andrew Allred pleaded guilty in April to two counts of first-degree murder.

The sentence was handed down today by Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr.

The judge could have sent Allred to prison for the rest of his life. The judge chose the death penalty, in part, he said, because the slayings were especially calculated.

Allred killed Tiffany Barwick, 19, and her friend, Michael Ruschak, 22, April 24, 2007, at an Oviedo home Ruschak, a University of Central Florida student, shared with roommates. Allred also wounded Eric Thomas Roberts, who tried to wrestle the gun away.

Roberts was in court today but would not comment.

Ruschak's father, Chuck Ruschak, said he wanted Allred to get a life prison sentence. That, he said, would force Allred to live in a prison's general population and would be more difficult than death row, where inmates have separate cells and are not required to work.

Barwick had lived with Allred but she broke off their relationship about a month before the shooting. He then began harassing her via the Internet, gaining access to her bank account, sending phony messages under her name and threatening to kill Michael Ruschak.

About eight hours before the shooting Barwick and Ruschak asked the Seminole County Sheriff's Office to arrest Allred, but a deputy told them there was not enough evidence.

The sheriff's office has defended its actions, saying the deputies could not have made a lawful arrest.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our views: Crime and punishment

William Dillon’s new trial and expert counsel for Florida death row inmates

For nearly 28 years, William Dillon has sat in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit.

Come January, he could walk out a free man.

In a dramatic turn Friday, Brevard Circuit Judge David Dugan ordered a new trial for the former Satellite Beach resident after the State Attorney’s Office dropped its opposition.

It was a moment too long in coming.

Tests several months ago proved Dillon’s DNA was not on a T-shirt that was a key piece of evidence at the 1981 trial that led to his conviction for the murder of James Dvorak in Indian Harbour Beach.

Yet incredibly, the State Attorney’s Office said that wasn’t a strong enough reason to reopen the case and fought to have Dillon’s motion for release or a new trial denied.

The DNA is not the only evidence that shouts for Dillon to get a new day before a jury of his peers.

Other information shows prosecutors relied on questionable testimony from a jailhouse snitch who appears to have lied and discounted a witness’ description of a hitchhiker who left behind the T-shirt that doesn’t point to Dillon.

They also admitted as evidence tainted witness reports, including from a woman who slept with an investigator on the case and later recanted her testimony, saying she’d been threatened with jail if she didn’t lie.

The case is hauntingly similar to that of Wilton Dedge, a Port St. John man who spent 22 years in prison for a 1982 rape before DNA evidence proved his innocence.

Then, as now, the State Attorney’s Office fought Dedge at every turn before he was finally cleared and freed in 2002.

Dillon will appear before Dugan for a bond hearing Tuesday that could lead to his release while he awaits his new trial. Whether or not the bond is approved, this much is clear:

Justice demands that Dillon have a new trial, and justice has delivered.

Faulty, flawed and incompetent.

Those are some of the words that describe attorneys who have too often represented Florida death row inmates making appeals in what studies of capital punishment in our state have called disgraceful jurisprudence.

The situation only got worse when former Gov. Jeb Bush and some lawmakers reduced a panel of highly specialized lawyers well-versed in post-conviction litigation and replaced them with a registry of ill-prepared private attorneys and limited the time they can spend defending clients.

The result was not surprising, with former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero saying their work was “some of the worst lawyering I’ve seen.”

The Supreme Court has recently stepped in, ruling that attorneys in post-conviction appeals can’t be punished for charging more hours beyond a state-imposed limit in their effort to provide the best representation possible.

There’s a solution to this problem:

The Legislature should reconstitute the specialized panel — called the Capital Collateral Regional Counsel — when it returns to work in March.

If the state wants to use the death penalty and the public agrees, then Florida has a moral obligation to ensure death-row inmates receive expert, not lousy, counsel to make certain the ultimate punishment is not wrongly inflicted.


High court clears way for execution

Times staff and wires

TALLAHASSEE — Convicted murderer Wayne Tompkins is one step closer to the execution chair after the Florida Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution on Thursday.

Tompkins, 57, killed his girlfriend's teenage daughter 25 years ago in Tampa. The stay had been set to expire Tuesday, but the justices dissolved it Thursday, six days after they denied three separate appeals by Tompkins.

A spokesman for Gov. Charlie Crist said a new execution date has not been set. Tompkins is also pursuing appeals in the federal courts.

Tompkins was convicted of strangling 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr with her bathrobe sash at her mother's home. Tompkins told authorities she had run away from home, but her remains were found buried under the house 15 months later.

On Nov. 7, the Florida Supreme Court denied the death row inmate's appeals, but in a pointed dissent, one justice questioned the conduct of the Hillsborough prosecutor who handled Tompkins' case 23 years ago.

There are allegations that former Assistant State Attorney Mike Benito urged a key state witness to embellish his testimony, Justice Harry Lee Anstead reminded his colleagues.

In an interview last month, a jailhouse informer maintained that Tompkins had confided to him how he strangled 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr in March 1983. But the inmate said for the first time that Benito instructed him to tell jurors DeCarr was buried under her Tampa home with a purse, a detail the informer did not recall hearing from Tompkins.

Benito told prosecutors last month he never coached the witness.

Tompkins' attorney has said he has more appellate options to pursue. The new revelation from the witness is just one of many concerns attorney Martin McClain has about the state's case.

"This is one of the most troubling cases that I have," he said. "The evidence against Mr. Tompkins is just absurd."

Information from Associated Press and Times files was used in this report.

Hearing, but no new trial for killer


Published: Friday, November 14, 2008 at 1:00 a.m.

A death row inmate who ordered the killing of a teenager in a drug deal that went bad will get a new sentencing hearing but not a new trial.

The state Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously reversed a trial judge's decision to give handyman Faunce Levon Pearce a new trial on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but it agreed to vacate his death penalty for the murder conviction. The justices ruled his lawyers were ineffective during his trial's penalty phase. They did not research his background or have him examined by mental health experts. Psychologists now say he is mentally ill and has brain damage.

Pearce, 46, ordered another man to shoot the victim, 17-year-old Robert Crawford III, and another teenager who survived. They were left for dead along a Pasco County road in 1999.

The shooter, Lawrence Smith, 31, was convicted of the same charges and also sentenced to death. His penalty later was reduced to life in prison after the Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing because the judge erroneously said the death penalty was required for such crimes.

Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper ordered a new trial because defense lawyers had failed to object to testimony that Pearce forced one of the teenagers to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint and a prosecutor's comments to the jury about the uncharged crime. Tepper ruled the jury had been prejudiced, but the justices disagreed.

Violent incidents in South Florida schools

• Miami Edison Senior High, March 2008: Police were called to the school after a violent melee broke out in the cafeteria. Two dozen students were arrested; a half dozen suffered injuries.

• Miami Norland High, February 2008: Javaris Cross, 17, was shot in the left ear while trying to break up a fight.

• North Dade Academy, February 2008: A 14-year-old girl attempted to gun down the principal who expelled her more than a year earlier. The gun jammed.

• Miami Carol City Senior, 2007: Teacher Sergio Miranda was shot in the back while taking a cigarette break outside school. The gunman, who had tried to rob Miranda and another teacher, was not a student at the school.

• William Dandy Middle, Fort Lauderdale, 2007: A 13-year-old girl slashed another, 15, in the face with a razor blade.

• Parkway Charter Academy, Miramar, 2005: On the bus to school, Camille Burke shot and wounded classmate Kaliesha Cheatham. Classmates said Cheatham and her friends taunted Burke about her hairstyle the day before. Burke pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder and possession of firearm on school property and is serving a 10-year prison sentence.

• Southwood Middle, Miami-Dade, 2004: Knife-wielding Michael Hernandez, 14, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of best friend Jaime Gough. Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

• Piper High, Sunrise, 2002: Kern O'Sullivan stabbed and killed football player Courtney Carroll in the heart with a screwdriver. Sullivan was sentenced to six years probation after pleading guilty to charges of manslaughter.

• Lake Worth Middle, 2000: Student Nathaniel Brazill shot and killed teacher Barry Grunow on the last day of school because he was angry about being sent home for throwing a water balloon. Brazill was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 28 years in prison.

• Miami Killian High, 1996: At least two students were arrested and two others were badly beaten in a fight between blacks and Hispanics that spilled into the streets.

Father's imprisonment took toll on Dillard High shooting suspect


Teah Wimberly was a musically gifted daddy's girl.

The 15-year-old played four instruments and joined the Dillard High School marching band in hopes of one day playing in front of her father, Jevon Wimberly, an aspiring comedian and the girl's primary caregiver.

But Wimberly's goal was dashed after her father was jailed in 2006 for attempted murder. His sudden absence -- worsened by his refusal to let her visit -- sent Wimberly into a depression and triggered a troubling change in her behavior, court documents revealed.

Letters from family and friends hint that Wimberly's life went into a gradual tailspin that ended Wednesday, when she was arrested and charged with fatally shooting her longtime friend, 15-year-old Amanda Collette, in a school hallway.

''I wanted her to feel pain like me,'' Wimberly told Fort Lauderdale police after her arrest. Broward County prosecutors said Thursday they will charge her -- as an adult -- with first-degree murder.

According to friends, the girls had exchanged a series of emotional text messages Tuesday. Among them: messages from Wimberly professing her love for Collette and her rejection of her advances.

Wimberly had faced rejection before.

Her mother, Char Merritt Aukland, entered the U.S. Army after the girl was born and left Wimberly in the care of her paternal grandparents. Aukland, who now lives in Virginia, signed over temporary guardianship of her daughter to the grandmother in 1998 and reappeared in the child's life in 2001.

However, she has not maintained a relationship with Wimberly, who ''rarely visits her mother,'' court records said.


Though Wimberly's grandparents were an important part of her life -- they took her into their Fort Lauderdale home after her father was arrested -- court records show there was an inseparable bond between the girl and her father that, when cut, scarred her deeply. Jevon Wimberly is serving a 25-year sentence.

''Wimberly constantly asks when her father will be home, but no one has the answer at this time,'' wrote Cynthia Thomas, a sentencing consultant who interviewed members of Wimberly's family a year ago about how her life was affected by her father's imprisonment.

``The Wimberlys are concerned for [her] as she has been affected terribly by her father's absence.''

Wimberly's grandfather, John Wimberly, is a retired assistant supervisor for the state Department of Juvenile Justice who had more than 30 years of experience dealing with troubled youths.

Wimberly's grandmother, Shirley Wimberly, is a retired supervisor of the Broward County Office of Information Technology, where she worked for 30 years.

Several letters written by family, friends and clergy -- meant to sway the judge during Jevon Wimberly's sentencing for second-degree attempted murder on Dec. 7, 2007 -- all stress how his absence affected Wimberly.

The formerly promising teen became an uncontrollable behavior problem for her grandparents, according to court files.

The records do not explain the nature of the behavior problem, but they state that even neighbors noticed the change.

Wimberly, who barely knew her estranged mother, became so distraught that she was taken to a psychologist to help her cope, court documents state.

In a Nov. 25, 2007, letter to Broward Circuit Judge John Murphy III, Wimberly pleaded for mercy for her father. Included were pictures of Jevon and Teah Wimberly that displayed how close the two were.

In most of the pictures, the father was smiling as he embraced his only daughter.

''I want to take the time out to say I really love my daddy. All my life I've had my daddy and our bond is really strong,'' Wimberly wrote. ``When I found out he was gone I was really sad. We mean the world to each other, and I really want him back.''

Jevon Wimberly, known on stage as ''J Baby,'' was an up-and-coming comedian who often headlined shows at the Miami Improv.

He was Wimberly's primary caretaker since college, court documents show.

Wimberly developed a love for music and played the bassoon, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone and tuba. Her father was very supportive, becoming a band parent and active PTA member who chaperoned field trips and performances, court documents said.

''He hasn't missed a musical,'' Wimberly's grandfather wrote to Murphy.


In 2006, Jevon Wimberly was engaged, being scouted for a part in a sitcom and had just bought a two-bedroom town house in Lauderhill when his future was derailed by gunfire.

On Oct. 10, police reports state, Wimberly shot a man in the shoulder over a dispute involving a bag of missing DVDs.

Ever since, at Wimberly's request, his daughter was not allowed to see him and had never visited him in jail or since he was moved to a North Florida prison, ''because he does not want her to be subjected to the surroundings of the jail,'' wrote Thomas, the sentencing consultant.

They did speak on the phone frequently, however, records show.

Man Found Guilty Of Dollar General Murders

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- On Friday, a jury found Roy Lee McDuffie guilty of killing two co-workers in 2002.

The crime happened at a Central Florida Dollar General store, but the trial moved to St. Augustine because of concerns about publicity.

Both victims, Janice Schneider and Dawniell "D.J." Beauregard, worked with McDuffie while he was in being trained to be a manger at the discount store.

Prosecutors said McDuffie killed the women so he could rob the store.

The trial in St. Augustine was McDuffie's second in the murder case. In November of 2007, McDuffie obtained a new trial from the Florida Supreme Court, which reversed his convictions and death sentence for killing two of the Deltona store's cashiers.

Friday's conviction means McDuffie will once again face the possibility of the death penalty.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Florida Inmate Facing Imminent Execution Despite Evidence of Witness Tampering by Prosecution

By Corrinne Farrell
Nov 11, 2008, 17:18

Florida Inmate Facing Imminent Execution Despite Evidence of Witness Tampering by Prosecution

Dissent in Florida Supreme Court Would Grant Wayne Tompkins Hearing after "Bombshell Disclosure" by Jailhouse Informant

Washington, D.C. –Florida may execute Wayne Tompkins soon despite new revelations that the state prompted a trial witness to lie. Tompkins was to be executed in Florida on October 28, 2008, but was granted a stay of execution to allow time for the state Supreme Court to review his case. On November 7, the court denied Tompkins' appeal, even though the court acknowledged that a state witness admitted to providing false testimony at Tompkins' original trial in 1985. Justice Harry Anstead dissented from the court's ruling and underscored the gravity of the new information: If a trial witness was fed information by the prosecution, it "could change the jury's entire evaluation of the case," he wrote.

Tompkins was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's daughter, Lisa DeCarr, and burying her under a house in Tampa in 1983. He has always maintained his innocence. One of the key witnesses who testified against Tompkins was an inmate who shared a jail cell with him while Tompkins was awaiting trial. That inmate, Kenneth Turco, recently admitted that the prosecutor prompted him to give false testimony about the victim's purse during the trial. Turco claims that the rest of his testimony, in which he recounted an alleged confession by Tompkins, was true.

Justice Anstead would have granted Tompkins an evidentiary hearing regarding what he called "flagrant misconduct" by the state. He said that the prosecutor's actions, if true, amounted to tampering with a witness. "Imagine here a jury already concerned with the credibility of a jailhouse snitch now being told that a critical part of his testimony was fabricated by the state's prosecutor," he wrote. "Surely, common sense would tell us this is the kind of 'bombshell' disclosure that could change the jury's entire evaluation of the case." (Tompkins v. Florida, Nos. SC 08-992, -1979, -2000, Nov. 7, 2008) (Anstead, J., dissenting in part).

Tompkins' stay of execution expires on Nov. 18. For further information about Tompkins' case, contact his attorney, Martin McClain, 305-984-8344, email:

For other death penalty information, contact DPIC's Executive Director, Richard Dieter, 202-289-2275, email:

A teen gets life while other killers get deal


All murders aren't the same.

Michael Hernandez, 14 and delusional when he stabbed his classmate to death in 2004, was given a life sentence last week. No parole.

Three days earlier, in Broward circuit court, Lonnie Lauriston, 23 when he beat 4-year-old D'Hamonie Francois to death, was sentenced to three years in prison.

In Palm Beach County this summer, Charles Tyson, 22, managed a 40-year deal after tossing his 9-month-old son from a moving car, then throwing him into a canal.

Charles Tyson will get out of prison. Michael Hernandez won't.

Jordy Foster, 24, of Lauderdale Lakes, also could outlive his prison sentence. In September, he got 45 years for killing a 2-month-old.

Olivia Gonzalez-Mendoza left prison in May after serving 15 years of her 40-year sentence for the abuse and murder of the child Miami knew as Baby Lollipops.


A mentally ill child sentenced to life without parole makes a brutal contrast to so many Florida killers canny enough to cop a plea.

Next week, Angel Toro, 55, a one-time member of the notorious Macheteros terrorist group who took a deal, leaves prison after serving 24 years for killing a bouncer in a Miami strip club.

Moise Opont, 19, of Poinciana near Kissimmee, took the deal. Ten days before Michael Hernandez was given his life sentence, Opont, who had a juvenile record and was on a burglary spree when he raped and murdered a 99-year-old woman, copped to second-degree murder.

Under the conceit of the Florida justice system, Michael was considered competent enough to reject the advice of his lawyer and turn down a 40-year deal for the stabbing death of a classmate at Miami-Dade's Southwood Middle School. As if a disturbed teen was as able as any adult to weigh the consequences of such a decision.

Unlike Michael, all but one of the teenage killers of a homeless man in Fort Lauderdale in 2006 will have another chance on the outside.

It's plain, looking at other murder cases settled in Florida this year, that the quality of the victim influences the sentence.

In Sarasota, two thugs received sentences of 30 and 15 years in February for the rape and murder of a homeless woman.


In September in New Port Richey, Adam Jones, 25, cut a plea deal -- 25 years for the murder and robbery of a drug dealer. In Shalimar near Fort Walton Beach, the kidnapping, robbery and murder of a drug dealer came out to 20 years in a plea deal for a career criminal named Marcus ''Meatball'' Gray. In Jacksonville, Leo Toby got 35 years for robbing and killing a drug dealer. In Palm Beach County, a 16-year-old got 25 years for killing a 9-year-old in a drive-by shooting. But it was a lousy neighborhood.

Earlier this year, Alex King, just 12 when he and his brother were convicted of crushing their father's head with a baseball bat in 2002, was released from state prison. His brother Derek, a year older, gets out next year.

At the same time Michael was on trial in September, a Miami jury heard mob hit man John Martorano testify in the trial of an FBI agent gone bad. Martorano, who admits to 20 murders, had served 12 years.

Martorano also could testify that all murderers aren't treated equally. It helps to be a career criminal, old enough and wily enough and sane enough to take the deal. Everything Michael wasn't.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tampa killer loses death row appeal

By Colleen Jenkins, Times staff writer

Published Friday, November 7, 2008 8:34 PM

TAMPA — A month after issuing a stay of execution for Wayne Tompkins, the Florida Supreme Court on Friday denied the death row inmate's latest round of appeals.

But in a pointed dissent, one justice questioned the conduct of the Hillsborough prosecutor who handled Tompkins' case 23 years ago.

Justice Harry Lee Anstead argued that his colleagues should not dismiss allegations that Mike Benito, a former assistant state attorney, urged a key state witness to embellish his testimony.

"Indeed, if the claim is true, we have a state prosecutor who committed a criminal act in tampering with a witness," Anstead wrote. "Surely, common sense would tell us this is the kind of 'bombshell' disclosure that could change the jury's entire evaluation of the case."

In an interview last month, a jailhouse informer maintained that Tompkins had confided to him how he strangled 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr in March 1983. But the inmate said for the first time that Benito instructed him to tell jurors DeCarr was buried under her Tampa home with a purse, a detail the informer did not recall hearing from Tompkins.

Benito, now in private practice in Tampa, could not be reached Friday afternoon. He told prosecutors last month he never coached the witness.

"Absolutely not," Benito said, according to a transcript filed with the state Supreme Court. "I never tell a witness what to say."

No new execution date has been set for Tompkins. On Friday, a U.S. district judge dismissed the death row inmate's petition for federal relief.

Tompkins' attorney said he had more appellate options to pursue. The new revelation from the witness is just one of many concerns attorney Martin McClain has about the state's case.

"This is one of the most troubling cases that I have," he said. "The evidence against Mr. Tompkins is just absurd."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at or (813) 226-3337.

THE MADDIE CLIFTON SAGA: Her killer fights back tears when asked about Maddie and her family

By Paul Pinkham,
The Times-Union

Few homicides have dominated Northeast Florida's consciousness like the murder 10 years ago Monday of Maddie Clifton.

Just 8 years old, she disappeared on Election Day from her family's Lakewood home. For a week she was simply gone. Hundreds of people searched Dumpsters and woods around the secluded Southside neighborhood. Police sealed off the area and interviewed neighbors. Yellow ribbons sprung up everywhere as people hoped and prayed Maddie would be found.

A week later, Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover made a grim and emotional announcement. Maddie's body had been found, stuffed under the water bed of her 14-year-old neighbor and playmate, Josh Phillips. Josh's mother made the discovery and alerted police. Thousands lined San Jose Boulevard for Maddie's funeral procession.

Phillips was indicted as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder by a jury in Polk County, where his trial was moved because of publicity in Jacksonville. He was sentenced to a mandatory life term in prison, where he remains today.Phillips' story:

BOWLING GREEN - Josh Phillips remembers the exact moment he wrapped his teenaged mind around his life prison sentence.

At 16, he'd already been locked up two years for murdering his 8-year-old Jacksonville neighbor, Maddie Clifton.

He left the prison chow hall to see a line of gray-haired inmates with walkers and canes. The pill line.

"I was like, 'Wow, that's going to be me,' and that's when it really hit me," Phillips told the Times-Union in an exclusive interview at Hardee Correctional Institution. "I got real depressed when that happened. Then I realized ... it's going to be 60 years before I look like them."

Monday marks 10 years since Maddie vanished from her Lakewood home.

Her disappearance gripped Jacksonville like no other. Hundreds of volunteers combed through her secluded Southside neighborhood. Maddie's Kool-Aid smile graced billboards and T-shirts throughout the city. Images of her agonized parents dominated the news.

A week later, her body was found across the street by Phillips' mother, entombed under her son's water bed. The 14-year-old with no history of violence told police he panicked after accidentally hitting Maddie with a ball while playing because he was afraid of his dad's reaction. He said he beat her with a bat and stabbed her to keep her from crying. Authorities believe he killed her in his bedroom.

He was charged as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a mandatory life prison term, with no hope of parole. The judge called him "monstrous."

Now 24, the boy who killed Maddie has grown up in prison. Oddly, the experience doesn't seem to have hardened him. But it has changed him.

Gone is the gangly, expressionless teenager who looked on flatly as his fate was sealed. In its place is a seasoned lifer who speaks of empathy and morality and fights back tears when asked about Maddie and her family.

"I have this little apology litany that I go through to make certain that she knows that I'm sorry and also that I'm trying to make her life worth something. I'm trying because I'm still here," he said. "I want to be someone who can relieve suffering."

A week in denial Phillips said he thinks about Maddie all the time. It usually happens when he starts feeling sorry for himself.

"I start thinking, 'Man, it really sucks I missed out on this and that.' And as soon as I get there, I think, 'What did she miss out on?' " he said.

Those thoughts are far deeper than what was in his mind the week Maddie was missing.

He wouldn't discuss the murder with the Times-Union but said that week, as cops and strangers swarmed his neighborhood, he was in denial. He had Maddie's missing-child flier on his night stand and even helped hand out fliers.

He said it never occurred to him to run.

"Through the entire time, I was putting myself in a fantasy world that nothing had happened. That was my defense mechanism for everything when I was a kid," he said. "I never made the decision ... to ignore it. I just did."

State Attorney Harry Shorstein used that against him at trial, arguing that Phillips' ability to carry on with his victim under his bed was a sign of coldness.

Once in jail, he wouldn't talk about the case, not even with his lawyer, Richard D. Nichols. And Nichols did little to coax him, Phillips said. Nichols has since died.

"He didn't even really try to find out what happened," Phillips said. "I didn't help him."

He said their infrequent jail visits consisted of chess matches on a homemade board Phillips fashioned in his cell. Neither he nor his parents knew anything about the law, so when Nichols decided at trial not to call witnesses, they assumed he knew what he was doing, Phillips said. He said his mother questioned the strategy, but his father, now deceased, told them to trust the lawyer.

Had Nichols mounted a defense, jurors could have convicted Phillips of a lesser charge like second-degree murder or manslaughter, which would have meant a shorter sentence, said Phillips' new attorney, Thomas Fallis. Nichols' defense strategy is the subject of an appeal Fallis is preparing.

As one of Florida's youngest inmates, Phillips was an anomaly to the prison system. When he looks back now, he realizes he was lucky.

Too naive to know who meant him harm, he said he was fortunate to fall in with a group of older inmates who taught him how to survive and stay out of trouble. And he said he realizes that prison officials were protecting him by limiting his time in the yard and housing him in open barracks instead of a cell.

A chance at redemption

Two of the Jacksonville officials most responsible for Phillips' sentence now have second thoughts.

"It was a draconian sentence," Shorstein said. "If there were a case for executive clemency or parole, I would support it. Not for it to be done today, but for reconsideration of the life sentence."

Shorstein said he has no qualms about charging Phillips as an adult or with first-degree murder, which carried a mandatory life sentence. Those were the right decisions at the time because the crime was so shocking, he said.

But Shorstein said he regrets not offering a second-degree murder plea, which would have given the judge discretion, particularly because Phillips appeared to be a shy, normal teen who liked computers.

He said the law needs to take into account psychiatric research since 1999 that shows teens Phillips' age are less culpable than adults because their brains aren't developed enough to grasp long-term consequences or completely control impulses.

Former Sheriff Nat Glover agreed there needs to be accountability, but also hope for redemption.

"I know some people thought that sentence was appropriate, but that was a tough sentence for someone that young," Glover said. "I never got the feeling that it was a malicious, mean-spirited, calculated murder. It was kind of an impulsive act that, given a different set of circumstances, would never have happened."

Nationally there is a slow trend away from the tough juvenile sanctions wrought by a spike in violent crime in the '90s, said Northwestern University law professor Steven Drizin. Some states have eliminated life without parole in youth murder cases, and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down death sentences for juveniles in 2005 based on the new research.

Florida Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, tried unsuccessfully for years to pass legislation that would allow parole for juvenile felons younger than 16. Even mass murderer Charles Manson comes up for parole, Geller said.

One of those who blocked the legislation was state Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, former chairman of the criminal justice committee. Wise doubts lawmakers will ever undo the '90s legislation because they don't want to be responsible for releasing someone from prison who then commits a heinous crime.

"At what point do you become rehabilitated?" Wise said. "You can't know the future."

Maddie's mother said Phillips' sentence is appropriate.

"Josh did get a life sentence, but Maddie got the death sentence. She was only 8 years old," Sheila Clifton Delongis said. "He should not be cut a deal just because he was 14."

Delongis said she knew Phillips as a neighbor and has no doubt he knew right from wrong.

The need for hope

Phillips has dreams of freedom, but admits they might not be realistic.

"My sense is I'm going to get out one day. Whether I really believe it or not is not really the point," he said. "I just kind of superficially believe it enough to keep me going.

"I really don't know if I deserve it or not, but I know I want ... a second chance. Maybe I deserve to die in prison ... but I can't look at it like that. Doing that is just a cop-out. ... Why would I try to learn anything? Why would I try to improve myself? Why would I try to help anybody if I'm just going to lay down and die in here?"

Part of him is thankful he was prosecuted as an adult. It's a paradox. If he'd been tried in juvenile court, he'd be free now. But he doesn't think he'd be as rehabilitated or mature if he hadn't had to come to terms with dying in prison. He also said he would have been more easily manipulated in a juvenile facility, where peer pressure is stronger.

"It might have gone worse for me in some respects," he said.

Except for his mother, who visits faithfully, and the occasional letter from one of his brothers, Phillips has had no contact with anyone from his past.

He's also had no contact with Maddie's family. People have suggested he write them an apology letter, an idea he rejects as "cheesy."

"They deserve to hear it from me personally ... so they can see the sincerity," he said. "They won't be able to see it in a letter. They won't be able to see it in a phone call or ... on TV."

Delongis said she has no interest in talking to her daughter's killer, but Maddie's sister does. Now 21, Jessie Clifton said she wants to meet with him to get some answers.

"He changed my life," she said. "I'm not going there to be mean. I'm not going there to be rude. I just want to talk to him."

Maddie would be 18 today, probably in college. She'd likely be driving, working, dating - all the rites of youth.

Despite his incarceration, Phillips has been able to do some of those things. He got his GED, though initially prison officials told him he was too young. He's taken some correspondence college classes, and he works as a paralegal helping other inmates with their appeals.

He also plays guitar in a prison band and participates in a Christian prison ministry, Zen meditation and yoga. He can't imagine hurting anyone now.

"I've grown a lot," he said. "This has taught me to understand just about anybody's pain. I've learned to ... almost completely put myself in someone else's shoes and really feel whatever they're feeling.

"It's taught me to be a better person.", (904) 359-4107

Jurors recommend death for West Palm Beach killer

By Missy Diaz | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
4:48 PM EST, November 5, 2008

By a vote of 9-to-3, a jury on Wednesday recommended that Rhonda Norman be put to death for the slaying of Jane Tackaberry in 2006.

Norman cried softly as the decision was read. The final decision on her sentence lies with the trial judge.

Tackaberry's son, John, also sobbed. Outside the courtroom, John Tackaberry clutched a stuffed whale with a pin bearing his mother's picture.

"It's a great day for our family, my mom, our son," he said. "It's a great day for justice. My mom didn't do anything to them, my son didn't do anything to them and I didn't do anything to them to make them kill my mom."

Norman, 36, told police she killed Tackaberry to get revenge on John Tackaberry because Norman believed he had been unfaithful. Norman, according to trial testimony, enlisted the help of a drug-dealing hustler and the two brutally beat and stabbed 53-year-old Jane Tackaberry and then turned the knife on John Tackaberry's 6-year-old son, who miraculously survived.

In July, she was convicted of murdering her boyfriend's mother — Jane Tackaberry — and attempting to murder Tackaberry's 6-year-old grandson, Elijah Tackaberry, in 2006.

Norman was born to a single, teenage mother with a drug and alcohol problem in a crime-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood. For her first several years, she was raised by her grandmother, who laced her baby bottles with whiskey to get the baby to be passive and sleep, Lerman said.

At age 4, Norman and her siblings went to live with Norman's mother, who spent her public-assistance checks on crack cocaine and alcohol and left her children for days at a time while she binged.

The children wandered their neighborhood begging residents for food and clothing. A man in the neighborhood raped and impregnated Norman when she was 12, and she delivered a stillborn son when she was 13.

To help carry out her plan, Norman enlisted the assistance of alleged crack addict and hustler Wes McGee, whom she met on the night of the crimes, according to trial testimony. They went to Jane Tackaberry's West Palm Beach home, where Norman and McGee allegedly beat, stabbed and robbed Tackaberry before turning on Elijah.

The first-grader survived repeated stabbings. After the attack, the child crawled to his bed, where his father found him when he came home.

McGee's trial is scheduled to begin next week.

Prosecutor Craig Williams told the jury that Norman deserves to die because of the extreme violence of her acts, her cold and calculated premeditation and the "heinous, atrocious and cruel" nature of the killing.

Lerman said that because of Norman's hard-knocks upbringing, she should be spared the death penalty. He told jurors that Norman "was born into the depths of society" and never had a chance to develop normally.

Forensic psychologist Harry Krop testified that the effects of alcohol in the womb and as a child affected Norman's cognitive development.

An 11th-grade dropout, Norman has problems with impulse control, suffers from depression and has attempted suicide a few times, Krop said. Her relationships regularly involved domestic violence.

Jurors heard from Jane Tackaberry's family and friends, who recalled a compassionate, vivacious woman whose greatest joys were the three grandchildren who still ask for their Nana.

The cosmetologist loved cooking, music, gardening and the Minnesota Vikings.

She never missed an opportunity to help someone in need, tending the lawn of a neighbor with disabilities and sending roses to a longtime client two weeks before her death.

Testimony is to continue today.

Missy Diaz can be reached at or 561-228-5505.

Convicted Teen Killer Sentenced To Life Without Parole

MIAMI -- Michael Hernandez, a teenager convicted of murder in the killing of his classmate, Jaime Gough, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole plus an additional 30 years.

Hernandez, 18, faced a mandatory life sentence without parole as a result of his conviction on a first-degree murder charge. He also was sentenced to another 30 years in prison as a result of his conviction on an attempted murder charge.

In September, an Orlando jury unanimously agreed Hernandez was sane when he stabbed and slashed his friend to death inside a Southwood Middle School bathroom in 2004. The trial was moved to Orlando because too many potential jurors in Miami-Dade had already formed an opinion about the case.

Hernandez was sentenced Friday in a hearing in Miami-Dade County.

“Jaime trusted you and for that innocent trust Jaime would die, alone and frightened on that cold tile floor," said Judge John Schlesinger. “I will sentence you to life in prison for the murder of Jaime Gough.”

The harsh reality of the crime was revealed in Hernandez's punishment, but before he was locked up for life, Gough's family confronted his killer.

"Just look at you. You show no remorse. You took someone's life," said Jorge Gough, Jaime's father. "He was your friend, Michael. He was your friend.”

In a written statement read aloud by a representative, Jaime's mother, Maria Gough, offered forgiveness and asked Hernandez to repent.

"Though you showed no compassion for Jaime, we are asking Jesus to show you compassion and have mercy on you," the statement said.

The weight and finality of this moment was not lost on Hernandez's mother, Kathy Hernandez.

“As a mother, what do you say on the day that your son is going to be sentenced to die in prison?" Kathy Hernandez said.

Michael Hernandez did not speak on his own behalf and showed little emotion during the sentencing. His father, Manny Hernandez, plans on an appeal because he said his son was interrogated for 12 hours without his parents or an attorney present.

"I feel like I am the only father in the United States that has a child that has no rights whatsoever," Manny Hernandez said. "I’m sure if (Osama) bin Laden were to be caught today, you all would be talking to him but he would have an attorney talking for him.”

After Michael Hernandez’s parents apologized to the Gough family, they begged the judge to get him help for his mental illness.

The defense had unsuccessfully argued Hernandez should not be found guilty because he is insane, suffering from schizophrenia. Defense attorneys said Hernandez thought his calling in life was to become a serial killer.

Kathy Hernandez had one final plea at the sentencing hearing.

“I hope Michael will be able to be placed close to home so we will be able to visit him," she said.

During the trial, prosecutors described how 14-year-old Gough was lured into the bathroom by Hernandez and stabbed more than 40 times. Prosecutors convinced the jury the murder was premeditated.

Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and also attempted murder. The day before Gough was killed, prosecutors said, Hernandez tried to lure another friend into the bathroom but he refused to go.

Jaime Gough’s father called the September verdict “justice.”

Fla. justices deny condemned inmate's appeals

Associated Press - November 7, 2008 5:24 PM ET

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Supreme Court has denied three separate appeals from a convicted killer whose stay of execution is due to expire Nov. 18.

The justices ruled against Wayne Tompkins on Friday. He strangled a teenager 25 years ago in Tampa.

The appeals included a claim the state's lethal injection procedure is unconstitutional because it inflicts cruel and unusual punishment.

The state justices and U.S. Supreme Court also rejected similar appeals by two other Florida death row inmates executed earlier this year.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Joshua Phillips Tells His Story from Prison

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- The teen convicted of killing Maddie Clifton is talking behind bars.

Police arrested Joshua Phillips as a 14 year old for beating and stabbing Maddie to death in 1998. He hid her body under his waterbed and slept there for a week before his mother discovered the body. The news devastated the community.

Phillips received life in prison with no chance of parole.

Now at the age of 24, Phillips is telling his story from the Hardee Correctional Institution in an exclusive interview to our news partner, the Florida Times-Union.

Phillips says he thinks about Maddie Clifton all the time but when it comes to a written apology, he just can't.

Phillips says Maddie's family deserves one in person so that they could see his sincerity.

He also wants a second chance, but knows he'll never get one as a free man.

He's also doing a lot of thinking about growing up and dying in prison.