Thursday, January 21, 2010

Melbourne killer gets life, no parole

Victim's parents relieved; lawyer promises appeal

BY KEYONNA SUMMERS
FLORIDA TODAY

The family of a Melbourne woman murdered by her boyfriend's mentally ill twin brother shed tears and breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday as the killer was sentenced to two life prison terms without the possibility of parole.

Though attorneys for Travis Lee Edwards said appeals are forthcoming, victim Karen Muscovitz's parents, Arnie and Alice Muscovitz, said they are glad their ordeal since their daughter's death is over for now.

"It took all the weight off my shoulders," Arnie Muscovitz said after the sentencing. "Six years and 16 days, it's finally over. I can sleep now."

A jury found Edwards guilty in October of first-degree premeditated murder for the January 2004 strangling and beating death of 27-year-old Karen Muscovitz.

Edwards, 39 and a diagnosed schizophrenic, also was found guilty of kidnapping for holding hostage for two days a friend of Muscovitz's who dropped by the home the evening of the murder.

Since prosecutors waived the death penalty, the murder conviction meant an automatic life sentence for Edwards. The kidnapping charge carried a minimum sentence of 10 years.

Prosecutors on Wednesday dropped a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Defense attorneys had argued that Edwards was legally insane at the time of the incident, and believed that Karen Muscovitz was a spy with a mob organization trying to kill him and his sibling.

Edwards' brother and guardian, Brent Edwards, was in jail at the time of the killing.

"I thank you for the sentence," Edwards told Circuit Judge Charles Holcomb on Wednesday, before turning around to look back at his mother in the courtroom gallery as he was led out.

The case was fraught with competency issues that several times postponed the trial, hearings leading up to it and sentencing.

Defense attorney Kepler Funk said his firm will file documents within the next two weeks appealing several of the judge's orders.

"I hear juries speak loud and I'll hear this verdict for the rest of my life," Funk said. "I believe Travis belongs in Chattahoochee (state mental hospital) rather than a state prison."

The Muscovitzes, who estimate they spent more than $30,000 over the last six years traveling between Florida and Massachusetts for hearings, said they'll never forget the case either.

Edwards never showed remorse, instead using his time to speak to the judge during sentencing Wednesday to blast his lawyers, they said.

"This weekend is our 40th wedding anniversary, so this is a nice present," Alice Muscovitz said.

"I wish she was here to celebrate with us," she said. "She is."

Contact Summers at 242-3642 or ksummers@floridatoday.com.

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