Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge rejects death sentence in Durango's Steakhouse murder

Wilson Saintil, 54, maintained his innocence in the slaying despite DNA evidence to the contrary.

Wilson Saintil, 54, maintained his innocence in the slaying despite DNA evidence to the contrary.

LARGO — Pinellas Judge Nancy Moate Ley looked into the gallery at the back of her courtroom Monday afternoon and set her eyes on the family of a murdered man.

"In the long run," she told them, "I may have saved you some pain by making this decision."

Ley had overridden a jury's recommendation and sentenced a convicted murderer to life in prison without parole instead of to death row.

In April, a Pinellas jury recommended by a 9-3 vote that Wilson Saintil, 54, be sentenced to death for the 2005 murder of Stephen Holmes, an assistant manager at Durango's Steakhouse in St. Petersburg.

Holmes, a 29-year-old father of a young son, was killed during a late-night robbery of the restaurant he managed. He was stabbed and cut more than 40 times, including six deep gashes to his neck that Ley described as some of the "most gruesome and disturbing" she had ever seen.

Judges are required to give a jury recommendation great weight in making their decision on death sentences, and they usually follow the jury's advice. But not always.

Holmes's family also wasn't pushing for the death penalty. In a letter to Ley, his father, William, said the family's religion is against capital punishment.

"As much as I want revenge for Stephen Holmes's murder, what I truly want is justice," the letter states. "I don't know if taking Wilson Saintil's life will make the loss feel better. Either decision you choose will not bring Stephen back to us."

Ley told the family that she made her decision based on the law and not because of their letter, though she found it touching.

Ley's decision will spare the family from years of appeals that are afforded to people sentenced to death row. Saintil will get some appeals, but not nearly as many as death row inmates.

Currently, 388 people sit on Florida's death row. The state averages only about two executions a year, so at that rate, most people on death row will die in prison of old age anyway.

Police said Saintil killed Holmes as he robbed the business of about $5,000, much of it in $100 bills. The next day, he began paying off debts, some with $100 bills.

Saintil worked as a prep cook and cleaned the restaurant after closing time each night. He and Holmes were friends.

Police found Saintil's bloody fingerprint on a file folder in Holmes' office. Drops of blood that contained his DNA also were found on a prep table.

Saintil's defense lawyers argued that he should be spared the death penalty for many reasons, including that he had a 63 IQ. He had been abandoned by his mother in Haiti at a young age and had a hard childhood.

As an adult, Saintil had three sons and was a good father, they said. He also attended church.

Saintil maintained his innocence to the end, even after Holmes' sister, Christina Broadwell, read a letter in court Monday asking him to admit what he had done. "I want to forgive you if you would only ask," she said. "I will not allow hate to fester in my heart."

Chris Tisch can be reached at (727) 892-2359 or tisch@sptimes.com.

Judge rejects death sentence in Durango's Steakhouse murder 08/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008 11:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Fire on neighbor's porch leads to charges against Holiday man

    Crime

    HOLIDAY — A Holiday man was arrested Wednesday after authorities say he torched the front porch of his neighbor, who he insisted was holding his daughter hostage.

    Dan Fry, 63, of Holiday was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree arson. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  2. Port Richey man solicited sex from 13-year-old, Pasco authorities say

    Crime

    PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey man was arrested Wednesday after Pasco County authorities say he solicited sex from a 13-year-old boy on the gay male dating app Grindr.

    Shawn Daly, 43, of Port Richey was charged with solicitation for sexual conduct with a child over a computer. [Photo courtesy of Pasco Sheriff's Office]
  3. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 16: An evening of wine and song transcends all language barriers for these travelers

    Travel

    Day 16: Castrojeriz to Villarmentero de Campos: 35 km, 10.5 hours. Total for Days 1-16 = 360 km (224 miles)

  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares by 20 percent

    Business

    CLEARWATER — Just then you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. Dunedin's negotiations with Blue Jays continue

    Local Government

    DUNEDIN — Dunedin officials are still in the process of negotiating a license agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    A rendering by Populous, a global architecture firm specializing in sports facility development, shows the entrance of an upgraded Florida Auto Exchange Stadium shows a Toronto Blue Jays team store. If the $81 million renovation plans between the city and team go through, the store would be open year-round.Credit:  Populous