BROOKSVILLE — Carmen Acevedo's bare feet bounced against the blue-checkered courtroom carpet. Her husband, Danny, leaned his head back and closed his eyes. His left hand clutched her right, pressing a tear-soaked tissue between their palms.
For 22 months, they had waited to hear a single word. The Acevedos had imagined hearing it so many times, but dreaded they never would.
Then, in a Hernando County courtroom just before 5 p.m. Friday, they did.
Their 18-year-old son, Enrique "Ricky" Acevedo, was stabbed to death in a carjacking two years ago. A 12-person jury concluded in just more than four hours that Steven Wesolek was his killer. Those same people will decide next week if he should die for his crime.
"Honey, Ricky is with us," Danny whispered to his wife. "And justice has been served."
"I know," said Carmen, trembling. "I know."
Wesolek, sitting a few feet away, closed his eyes and gripped the defense table with his right hand. The 21-year-old was convicted on all four counts brought against him: first-degree murder, attempted felony murder, carjacking with a weapon and robbery with a weapon.
In June 2010, Wesolek was living in a tent with his girlfriend, Sabrina Dicus, and her mother, Sherrie Dicus.
The three were desperate, he later told an investigator. They were homeless and hadn't eaten for days. They had planned to steal a car, flee the state and start a new life.
So, Wesolek called his former girlfriend, Skyler Collins, and asked if she could give him and his friends a ride. She agreed, but Acevedo, her friend, wouldn't let her go alone.
He drove, and Collins rode in the passenger seat. Wesolek and the Dicuses squeezed into the back. As they approached a solitary intersection south of Brooksville, authorities say, Wesolek stabbed Acevedo while Sherrie Dicus choked Collins until she passed out. Collins regained consciousness when Acevedo slammed on the brakes, and the two stumbled out of the car.
He collapsed, stopped breathing and died on the pavement.
All three suspects were caught in less than a day. At the time, a two-finger ring inscribed with the word "Enrique" hung from the end of a gold chain that dangled from Wesolek's neck. Ricky's grandfather, for whom he was named, had given him the ring when he was a boy.
In a recorded interview hours later, Wesolek admitted to the murder and said he kept the ring so he could live with the killing. So he could remember what he did.
He has since changed his story, insisting he confessed only to protect the girl he loved, Sabrina Dicus, who he now says was the real killer.
She was 14 at the time. He was 19.
Wesolek seemed confident, even cocky at times this week.
He laughed and told jokes with deputies. He shook his head and rolled his eyes as witnesses gave their testimony. He even told one bailiff he was a "mirage" and would soon "Houdini outta here."
He testified in his own defense Thursday afternoon. He told jurors that he harmed no one that day two years ago. That the Dicuses had just used him. That he was a victim, too.
Later Thursday evening, as Wesolek left the courtroom, he glanced at prosecutor Pete Magrino and grinned.
"I'll tell you what, Mr. Magrino," Wesolek said. "When I come back in five years and win my appeal, I'll buy you lunch."
"Don't talk to me," the prosecutor replied.
Wesolek, wearing a sagging dark gray suit, shuffled past Magrino again on Friday, moments after his conviction. His hands and feet shackled, the defendant's mouth hung open and his eyes wandered the floor.
He said nothing.
Times photojournalist Will Vragovic contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at (352) 848-1432 or [email protected]