JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - For many years, Duval County has led the state in the number of convicts sent to death row, but in 2011, the Fourth Circuit State Attorney's Office set new record: Juries recommended that six people be sentenced to death in Duval County.
Prosecutors also sought and received a death penalty sentence in a Clay County murder case in 2011.
The most recent case was that of David Sparre, who was convicted in early December of killing a Navy wife he befriended on Craigslist. [Read story]
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda says Sparre stabbed 21-year-old Tiara Pool 89 times with a kitchen knife, then went to visit his mother in the hospital.
"I've been doing this for 29 plus years. I deal with some violent people in terms of opponents or defendants, but it's rare that you get the feeling, you kind of get goose bumps, you feel like evil is across the table from you," de la Rionda said Wednesday. "To me, David Sparre was that type of individual.... It's almost like he enjoyed doing it."
A friend found Pool's body four days later.
"When we got the verdict, he was just kind of laughing at the jury, kind of smiling," de la Rionda said. "Those are the type of individuals the death penalty is made for and is the appropriate penalty."
In October, Cecil King was sentenced for beating 82-year-old Renie Telzer Bain to death with a hammer. King was her lawn maintenance man. [Read story]
"Even though we get the ultimate penalty, there's really no closure for those victims' families and that's what's tragic about this," de la Rionda said. "For example, Ms. Telzer Bain. You know, her son -- and I know you remember him -- unfortunately died, and I think that contributed to his death, unfortunately."
Earlier in October, a jury found Michael Yacob guilty of killing 19-year old Moussa Maida. The victim, who dreamed of becoming a doctor, was killed during an armed robbery of his family's Arlington convenience store. [Read story]
"What can you say to the victim's families in that? There's nothing you can do. The mother has lost an incredible amount of weight. She still wears black. She can't deal with it. She can't talk about it," de la Rionda said.
Another family torn apart is that of Elkie Jean-Philippe. Her estranged husband, Lesly Jean-Philippe, came to her door posing as a pizza deliveryman in August 2009 and stabbed her 52 times. He also attacked her sister, who survived to testify against the killer, who was the fourth person in Duval County sentenced to death in October. [Read story]
Over the summer, Thomas Brown received the maximum penalty for the fatal shooting of his Wendy's co-worker, Juanese Miller, a young mother. He said she used to pick on him. [Read story]
A triple murder in Northwest Jacksonville in 2007 led the death penalty this year for Terry Smith. Terry Smith was convicted in March of the shooting deaths of Desmond Robinson, 24, Kennethia Keenan, 21, and Berthum Gibson, 21. [Read story]
In the Clay County case, Hector Sanchez received the death penalty after his second conviction of murder: the shooting death of 19-year old Erick Colon during a robbery in Argyle Forrest. Sanchez was also convicted in the shooting death of a man in a Jacksonville cemetery two months before the Colon murder. [Read story]
While its been a long year and heavy workload for prosecutors, de la Rionda is gratified that these murderers are getting the punishment they deserve.
"You realize how sacred life is and how valuable it is and how we have to do everything to protect these innocent people," de la Rionda said.
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