LARGO — A judge has scheduled a hearing to consider possible new evidence in the case of a Pinellas County man scheduled to be executed next month.
Senior Circuit Judge Robert Beach said that "in an abundance of caution" he would set the hearing for Tuesday in the case of convicted murderer Robert Waterhouse.
Waterhouse was convicted of killing Deborah Kammerer, whose body was found in St. Petersburg's Lassing Park in 1980. She had been raped and brutally beaten. After his conviction, Waterhouse was sentenced to death.
This month, Gov. Rick Scott signed a death warrant for Waterhouse and scheduled his execution for Feb. 15.
Waterhouse's attorney, Robert Norgard, has raised what he says are two important issues that should prevent Waterhouse from getting the death penalty.
One is that a witness has stepped forward with what he said is new information. The other is that evidence in the case was destroyed after Waterhouse's conviction.
Norgard mentioned a Jan. 5 Tampa Bay Times article which, referring to evidence given in the original trial, noted that "It all began Jan. 2, 1980, when Waterhouse was seen leaving a St. Petersburg bar with Kammerer, according to witnesses."
However, when St. Petersburg resident Leglio Sotolongo read the recent article about what the witnesses said at trial, it did not match his memory of that night. Sotolongo, 55, was a doorman at the ABC Lounge at the time and knew Waterhouse.
In an affidavit filed in court, Sotolongo says he saw Waterhouse in the bar on the night of the murder. He said Waterhouse "left the lounge with two white males" and that he "did not leave the lounge with any female."
He also says he gave this information to a St. Petersburg detective at the time who seemed "disinterested in what I had to say." He also says the detective later approached him and another man and "accused us of trying to protect a murderer."
In a brief interview with the Times Friday morning, Sotolongo said that because the case is such a serious matter, he felt compelled to clarify what he observed that night.
Norgard also pointed out that physical evidence used at trial was destroyed after Waterhouse's conviction. At the time of the case, DNA testing was not available. Now that the evidence has been destroyed, there is no way to do the DNA testing, which could prove his innocence, Norgard said in court filings.
In response to a question from Beach, Norgard acknowledged this issue already had been raised in previous appeals.