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Jury finds murder defendant guilty after 90 minute of deliberations in Tampa

TAMPA — Murder defendants don't often testify on their own behalf. It's a risk. They can tell their own story to a jury, but they subject themselves to cross examination by prosecutors.

Leonel Marquetti, 51, took that risk Thursday. He took the stand in Hillsborough County Circuit Court to defend himself against a charge of first-degree murder. He was accused of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend's handyman on March 25, 2010, in Plant City.

The gamble did not pay off.

A jury took about 90 minutes to convict him of first-degree murder in the death of Michael Hurlbutt, 41. Marquetti shot Hurlbutt four times, once as he faced him and three times as his victim lay facedown. Jurors also found Marquetti guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm and false imprisonment.

This was after Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon hammered away at him.

"This wasn't a blind rage, was it?"

"You shot four times and hit him every single time, didn't you?"

"You wanted him dead, correct?"

"He was at your mercy, wasn't he?"

Marquetti said he could remember very little. Everything happened in a blur.

"I didn't go there to kill Michael," he said.

Finally, Harmon asked Marquetti, "Were you crying when you pumped 9mm rounds into him?"

Marquetti answered, "It was something that shouldn't have happened. But it did."

Prosecutors portrayed Marquetti as a hoarder who hated to throw anything away. They said he couldn't bear losing his girlfriend, a German dog breeder named Siglinde Sperber, who ended their 10-year relationship and asked him to move out of their Plant City home.

Prosecutors said he suspected Hurlbutt was involved with Sperber. She said he was only her repairman and a friend who helped her with her dogs.

A 911 call that Marquetti made after he shot Hurlbutt was replayed for the jury. Marquetti told a dispatcher he got angry after seeing Hurlbutt walk out of his house with his girlfriend.

Hurlbutt's parents and family sat through the trial, as did Marquetti's son, Corey, and the defendant's brother, Al. Corey Marquetti said he grew up in California without his father. But he said he wanted to hear the case first-hand. Both Marquetti's son and brother said they could only apologize for his crimes.

Marquetti faces a life sentence without parole. Circuit Judge Emmett Battles will sentence him on May 27.

John Barry can be reached at (813) 226- 3383 or jbarry@sptimes.com.

Jury finds murder defendant guilty after 90 minute of deliberations in Tampa 04/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 12:35am]
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