NEW PORT RICHEY — On New Year's Eve 2012, Baron Von Duke Vercruysse ran down Mosaic Drive in Holiday screaming about his father.
My dad's in there, he yelled, according to an incident report. Someone help him.
Pasco firefighters put out the blaze at the house and found the body of Rene Dominique Vercruysse, 52, with what looked like "lacerations or possibly a gunshot wound to both sides of his face." Bloody footprints led from the bathroom to the bedroom where they found the body.
Deputies arrested Baron Vercruysse, 25, and charged him with arson and first-degree murder. In an interview with the Times last year, he said he'd lived with years of abuse and finally had enough.
"I didn't mean to kill him," he said. "I just wanted him to stop beating me."
They fought, he said. He hit the ground and found a short knife with a 3-inch blade.
He closed his eyes and stabbed, he said.
He opened his eyes to his father slumped on the toilet seat. There was blood everywhere, he said. All over his father. It covered him, too — his shirt, pants and shoes.
He told the Times he dragged his father's body to the bedroom, doused it in gasoline and set it on fire. Next, he ran outside and tried to cover it up.
On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder and arson. A psychologist testified that Baron Vercruysse, although depressed, was lucid and aware of what was happening around him.
Pasco Circuit Judge William Webb told Vercruysse he could have faced the death penalty for his crime. He sentenced Vercruysse to 45 years in prison for the murder, and 30 years in prison for the arson. The sentences will be served concurrently.
Vercruysse, pale and quiet, responded only with "I understand" during his plea.