Jury finds man guilty of murdering Clearwater couple

LARGO — Richard T. Robards, standing in a dark suit with a ponytail resting on his back, didn't show a hint of emotion as a jury found him guilty of murdering a Clearwater couple in 2006.

In the hallway outside of the courtroom, friends and family members of Frank and Linda Deluca erupted into a cheer and thanked prosecutors Fred Schaub and Christie Ellis.

"You saw justice done today," said Joseph John Deluca, brother of Frank.

"I told you, eventually justice is going to come through," Schaub said to more than a dozen family members in the hallway.

The same jury that convicted Robards on Friday will meet Tuesday to recommend whether Robards should receive the death penalty. If not, the only other possible sentence is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Robards, 42, is a former title-winning bodybuilder who once worked as a personal trainer for the Delucas. Testimony indicated Robards killed them because he wanted to steal their safe, which contained $80,000. He never got the safe opened.

After stabbing the Delucas, Robards set their Murray Avenue house on fire in an attempt to burn evidence, Schaub said. But he wasn't smart enough to open windows, which would have provided enough oxygen to keep the fire going. The house was damaged, but not destroyed.

And in that house, police found a newspaper with Robards' fingerprint. They also found DNA evidence linking Robards to the crime. And in Robards' storage unit, they found a rifle that belonged to Frank Deluca, Schaub said.

"He's not the brightest bulb in the house," Schaub said of Robards, calling him "the world's dumbest criminal."

Defense attorney Larry C. Hoffman said the state's case was circumstantial, and that the murder weapon had never been found.

Hoffman on Friday urged jurors to carefully review the evidence and pay attention to anything that gave them a "reasonable doubt" about whether Robards was the murderer.

"You're going to make a life-and-death decision if you find Mr. Robards guilty," he said.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or ckrueger@sptimes.com.

Jury finds man guilty of murdering Clearwater couple 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 11:35pm]

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