BARTOW, Fla. - A central Florida man was sentenced to life in prison for strangling his live-in girlfriend, covering her head with a garbage bag and then cashing checks from her bank account after her death, authorities said.
Jurors found Donald Failey Jr., 34, guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder after less than two hours of deliberation.
Failey was out of work and stealing money from his girlfriend to buy cocaine in 2011 when an argument turned deadly, prosecutors said, adding that Failey squeezed Tara Romonoski's neck with his hands and covered her head with a garbage bag secured by duct tape.
Failey also wrapped an extension cord, a straightening iron cord and a white sweater around her neck and taped her nose and mouth shut, according to a police report. He left her body in the bedroom, taped the windows and door and sprayed air freshener to cover the smell of her remains. He also cashed checks from her bank account, according to the report.
The Ledger of Lakeland reports the victim's sister called authorities after she hadn't heard from Romonosk, 27, in more than a week.
Detectives secretly recorded portions of their interview with Failey by hiding a recorder in a toilet paper roll. During those interviews, Failey told detectives he didn't want them to say he was remorseful in their reports, and he just wanted to take his punishment.
Prosecutors insisted Failey's act was premeditated, but his lawyers argued that Failey snapped in the heat of the argument and said there was no evidence of planning or time to reflect on his actions.
"When they were fighting, Donald Failey snapped and did something he has to pay for and will pay for," said assistant Public Defender Robert Trogolo.
Prosecutors said Romonosk could have inflicted the scratched on her neck herself as she struggled to breathe or they could have come from Failey's hands as he choked her.
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