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After four shots, Hillsborough murder suspect tells 911 it was an accident

Leonel Marquetti, 51, center, watches the jury return Tuesday. He is accused of killing a man who was helping his ex-girlfriend, a dog breeder, with chores. 

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Leonel Marquetti, 51, center, watches the jury return Tuesday. He is accused of killing a man who was helping his ex-girlfriend, a dog breeder, with chores. 

TAMPA — Leonel Marquetti, a 6-foot-7, 300-pound giant, hunched over a defense table Tuesday as a jury heard a 911 recording of his voice booming over courtroom speakers.

"I shot a guy by accident," Marquetti, 51, is heard shouting. "I just got angry. I saw him coming out of my house with my girlfriend and I started shooting."

Marquetti is on trial for first-degree murder in Hillsborough Circuit Court. A former high school basketball sensation from California, he stands accused of killing Michael Hurlbutt, 41, on March 25, 2010, in Plant City.

His defense attorney, Gregory Hill, told jurors it was a tragic accident. After all, Marquetti was the one who called 911.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon told them it was a premeditated killing. Marquetti shot Hurlbutt four times, he said — first in the chest, then in his back after he fell face-down.

Marquetti's motivation, the prosecutor said, was "as old as humankind" — jealousy.

Prosecutors say the victim was a handyman and dog lover who did home repairs in exchange for two Great Dane puppies sold by Marquetti's girlfriend.

Marquetti and the girlfriend, Siglinde Sperber, a German dog breeder, had lived together off and on for 10 years, but had recently separated. Prosecutors said Marquetti hounded her with phone calls, questioning the time she spent with Hurlbutt. The state and Hurlbutt's fiancee strongly contend the two were just mutual dog lovers.

Prosecutors said Marquetti showed up at his ex-girlfriend's home just after she and Hurlbutt had returned from a morning trip to a Gainesville veterinarian to deliver one of her dogs sick with cancer.

Marquetti walked up on the back porch, they said, where Hurlbutt stood. Without speaking, he began firing a semiautomatic handgun.

Prosecutors say Marquetti then herded Sperber into the house, where she begged him to call 911 before Hurlbutt died, promising to help him get a lawyer.

On the recording, Marquetti could be heard shouting for paramedics to come. The operator tried to get him to attempt CPR, but Marquetti said it was useless. "He's gone, man! Oh, God, he's gone!"

When a Hillsborough County deputy arrived, Marquetti was still connected to 911. He could be heard telling the deputy he had a concealed weapons permit and his gun was in his back pocket.

As the recording finished, about 40 family members and friends of Hurlbutt's hung their heads. Prosecutors then introduced into evidence the blood-soaked T-shirt Hurlbutt wore that day.

In the front row, the victim's mother, Betty White, turned her face away. "I got through the recording," she said during a recess. "But the T-shirt made it all real."

Trial resumes today in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Emmett Battles.

An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect age for Hurlbutt.

John Barry can be reached at jbarry@sptimes.com.

After four shots, Hillsborough murder suspect tells 911 it was an accident 04/19/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 4:12pm]
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