DADE CITY — Derral Wayne Hodgkins was released from prison in August 2006 with a huge restriction: life probation.
He had served time for the 1987 kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old girl. Life probation meant that if he stepped astray of the law again, he could go back to prison and never get out.
Less than a month after his release, Hodgkins visited Teresa Lodge, a woman he knew before he was locked up. Inside her apartment on U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes, they got into a struggle and Lodge was choked unconscious, authorities said.
He could have left her there, but authorities believe that with the fear of a new arrest for battering her and life in prison hanging over him, Hodgkins stabbed her seven times in the chest. She died.
His first-degree murder trial is getting under way this week. Attorneys began questioning potential jurors on Tuesday, with testimony set to begin Friday.
The state is seeking the death penalty. In Florida, juries recommend whether a defendant should be put to death, but state law leaves the final sentence of either death or life in prison to judges to impose.
Hodgkins, 51, was arrested more than a year after Lodge's death when tests matched scrapings from underneath Lodge's fingernails with Hodgkins' DNA, which was already on file because of the old rape case.
Authorities said in 1987 that he went to the girl's home in Balm, in eastern Hillsborough County, looking for her mother. The mother wasn't there, but when the girl arrived home, she was attacked. News reports from that time described Hodgkins as a drifter with no known address.
The murder trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.