Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough judge sentences man of 'exemplary character' to 17 years in prison

TAMPA — Walter Dunn III was attentive to his two children, loyal to his family and thoughtful of his co-workers. By all accounts, he was good to everyone but his wife.

On Friday, his attempt to set her on fire put him in prison for 17 years.

"He was a great provider, he was a leader," said his former wife, Alison Aquino-Sanchez. "But no one knew what was happening in that house."

All morning long Friday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente heard how what Dunn did on Nov. 2, 2009, was foreign to everything he stood for.

On that night, Dunn, 29, tracked his estranged wife to the home of a male friend, burst in on them in a jealous rage and dragged her out of the house and into his SUV. Their two children, ages 4 and 7, screamed from the front seat.

When they got to their Town 'N Country home, Dunn forced Sanchez into the garage, where he beat her and threatened her with cutting tools. He then doused her with gasoline and tried to set her on fire. The lighter he used failed. Sheriff's deputies found her crawling out of the garage, hysterical, bloody and reeking of gasoline.

In June, a jury convicted him of burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery, attempted second-degree murder and three lesser felonies. He faced up to life in prison.

One by one Friday, friends and family members told how Dunn was an admissions officer at Everest University in Tampa, a Little League coach and a rock for his mother and sister to lean on. He was never known to have hurt anyone. He had no criminal record. His friend, Angela Matthews, said her mother sleeps with Dunn's photo at her bedside. "He always strives for the best," said his sister, Nicole Dunn.

The judge also heard how Dunn has helped Hillsborough jail inmates complete their GED courses.

Dunn wept. "I have devastated my children," he said. He hasn't seen them for almost three years. His legal costs have wiped out their college fund. He apologized to them, to his ailing mother and his family. "All are destroyed," he said.

He did not apologize to Sanchez.

Sanchez described how he had long belittled her, how he threatened to replace her with a nanny, how she attempted suicide several months before his attack. She said she and the children suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome.

"Walter," she said, "I see you in my dreams."

In passing sentence, Fuente said he saw before him "a responsible father, an exemplary character." He said he rarely sees such glowing references for convicted felons.

"Sadly, this involves very good people. It's hard to fathom what was going on in that garage."

Fuente sentenced Dunn to 17 years on the burglary with assault charge, 15 years for attempted murder, and five years each for felony battery, false imprisonment and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. All the terms will run concurrently.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or

Hillsborough judge sentences man of 'exemplary character' to 17 years in prison 08/10/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  3. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  5. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]