Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blaine Ross sentenced to die

BRADENTON --- When Blaine Ross crept into his parents' bedroom as they slept and fatally bludgeoned them with a baseball bat, he gave up his right to live, a judge said Friday.

"You have not only forfeited your right to live among us, but under the laws of the state of Florida, you have forfeited the right to live at all," Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas told Ross, as he sentenced him to die for murdering his parents, Richard and Kathleen Ross, in the family's East Manatee home.Ross, 25, found guilty in April for the Jan. 7, 2004, murders, will be transported to death row, the judge said, where he will stay until executed by lethal injection.

He is the first person in Manatee County to be sentenced to death in almost 19 1/2 years.

Condemned prisoners are housed either at the Florida State Prison in Starke or Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, according to the Florida Department of Corrections Web site.

Next in the case comes an appeal. All death penalty cases are automatically appealed.

Carolyn Schlemmer, one of Ross' attorneys, said she is convinced that because of legal issues particular to this case, and the death penalty in general, Ross will never be executed.

A jury convicted Ross of using an aluminum baseball bat to kill his parents. That same jury then recommended by an 8-4 vote, that Ross receive the death penalty.

Under state law, Nicholas had the final say.

During the sentencing hearing at the Manatee County Courthouse, Ross showed no emotion when the judge announced his fate.

Although the courtroom was almost full, none of Ross' family members attended the hearing. During the penalty phase of his trial, all of Ross' family members who testified said they wanted him to live.

At the time of the murders, Ross was 21, jobless and living with his parents in the 3900 block of 57th Drive East.

Testimony showed that Ross went into his parents' bedroom during the early morning hours of Jan. 7, 2004 and killed them while they slept. After the slayings, he took his mother's bank card and staged a clumsy burglary at the family's home.

"The court is aware of the grave responsibility of its sentencing decision and its enormous impact," Nicholas said.

Nicholas acknowledged it had taken some time for him to make his ruling on Ross' fate --- about 6 1/2 months, since the jury made its recommendation.

The judge said he considered the case's aggravating and mitigating factors, with "great length and great care."

Nicholas handed down two death sentences, one for each of the victims. He also sentenced Ross to 15 years in prison for robbery.

"They were just sentences for terrible deeds," Prosecutors Art Brown said as he walked away from the courtroom.

Adam Tebrugge, one of Ross' three public defenders, expressed disappointment with the judge's decision.

"The sentence imposed compounds the tragedy of the case," he said.

Aggravating factors presented by prosecutors included the manner of the victims' deaths and that Ross committed the crime for financial gain. Mitigating factors presented by defense attorneys included Ross' age, his insignificant criminal history and his cooperation with authorities.

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