NEW PORT RICHEY — Whether David Andrew White spends the rest of his life in prison for the murder of his wife depends on how long he lives behind bars.
White, 40, was sentenced Friday to 36 years in prison for the 2005 slaying of his wife, Andrea, a mother of four.
A jury convicted White of second-degree murder in April. He faced up to life in prison.
He could end up with that anyway: Under sentencing rules, White would have to live to be at least 70 before he could taste freedom again.
"He's going to be miserable every day of his life," said the victim's mother, Janice Friend. "It's not a happy place to be, and that's where he belongs."
As he did at his trial, however, White took the stand Friday to maintain his innocence.
"I know they point the finger at me," White told the court. "But my children, and the people who know me, know I had nothing to do with my wife's death.
"I ask you, your honor, please don't take my children's father away from them also."
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The case against David White was purely circumstantial. Forensic experts could not say for sure how Andrea White, 33, died.
But they did rule out a natural death. That, combined with the circumstances of how she was found — barefoot and dressed for bed, miles from home without her insulin shots for diabetes — led authorities to believe she had been suffocated July 11, 2005, then dumped into a pond.
David White claimed that his wife tried to shoot him late one night, then stormed out of their house and disappeared. But the state put on witnesses who related different stories that White had told about his wife's disappearance.
And, the state pointed out, White took the two daughters he had with the victim and moved to New York — the very day her body was found.
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Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis asked White about his two daughters, Sara, 9, and Sadie, 7.
"Have they ever talked to you about the death of their mother?" he asked. "Have they shown you the effects of living without a mom?"
They miss their mother, White said, but he insisted they have been well cared for.
"They have my sisters," he said. "They have females in their lives."
"So, in essence, your sisters have taken the place of Andrea?" Halkitis asked.
"They have for me," White said. "They have for my girls."
When he sentenced White, Circuit Judge Thane Covert said he found that exchange telling.
"What I do see as a common theme throughout this is a true indifference to her death," Covert said, "an indifference to what happened to her."
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In addition to the two daughters that David and Andrea White had together, Andrea White also had two other children, and before her death, they all lived together.
Shae Mayes, 14, told the court that he blamed David White for more than just the death of his mother. He also blamed him for destroying their family.
"Because of this man's actions, my mom will not be there to comfort me or any of her children … ," Mayes said. "It's wrong for my sisters and I to have to go through this."
Mayes lives in Arkansas with his aunt. His sister Charlotte Bonarrigo, 11, lives with her father in Melbourne. Sara and Sadie live in New York with David White's family.
Andrea White's children have been apart for three years, but that could change.
Last week, Denis Redmond, who is married to one of David White's sisters, let Sara and Sadie talk on the phone to Shae and their maternal grandmother, Janice Friend.
Then in court Friday, Redmond and Friend hugged.
Will the children ever be reunited?
"Someday," Friend said, "they will."
Jamal Thalji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.