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As trial opens in slaying of Clearwater couple, prosecutor points to greed

LARGO — Frank and Linda Deluca, married more than 40 years, died a brutal death side by side because of the greed of another.

So said a prosecutor during opening statements on the first day of Richard T. Robards' first-degree murder trial Tuesday.

Robards, 42, is on trial in the slayings of the Delucas, who were found in their Clearwater home on Aug. 1, 2006.

Prosecutors say Robards plotted to kill the couple to steal their safe, which contained $80,000. Afterwards, he set the house on fire to hide evidence of the crime, said Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub.

But the fire burned out before it could destroy the house. Frank Deluca, 60, and Linda, 59, were found by a friend the following day.

Robards was once a fitness trainer for professional athletes and business executives and a title-winning bodybuilder who lived at a home in Treasure Island. But by the time of the slayings, he was living in a motel.

He had once worked for the Delucas as a personal trainer.

Schaub said a friend of Robards contacted police after seeing reports of the murders and the stolen Wells Fargo safe in the news. The man told police that Robards had asked him to help rob the Delucas' house, but he declined.

Another man told police that he helped Robards move the safe from the Delucas' home, not knowing their bodies lay inside, Schaub said.

In a sick irony, Schaub said, Robards couldn't open the safe.

"He killed two people and didn't get a penny … because he couldn't open it," he said.

Robards' attorney, Larry C. Hoffman, said the state's case was based on circumstantial evidence.

"There's no weapon," he said. "There's no confession."

Hoffman alleged that Robards was set up by an acquaintance.

But Schaub said Robards' DNA was found under the fingernails of Frank Deluca, who struggled as he was attacked.

If convicted, Robards could face the death penalty.

His trial is scheduled to resume this morning.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

As trial opens in slaying of Clearwater couple, prosecutor points to greed 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 7:59pm]
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