NEW PORT RICHEY — John Sexton sat and calmly talked with his lawyers, his hands and feet in chains, as he waited to find out whether he'd be put to death.
Before Circuit Judge Mary Handsel handed down the sentence Friday, though, family and friends of the murdered 94-year-old Ann Parlato had their say.
"He's lucky he resides in our country," Parlato's niece Jeri Barr said. "He's had an extra three years on his life. He denied my aunt the ability to live through her natural years. I truly hope he isn't able to live his life through his."
Parlato's daughter, Maryanne, wasn't able to attend the sentencing because she lives out of state, but she prepared a statement for Sexton to hear, as well.
When Barr read it, she turned toward the killer.
"I wish you could personally experience the pain you inflicted on her," Maryanne Parlato wrote, "but the best next solution is to condemn you to death. It is the next best solution because we are, after all, civilized."
Handsel read through a summary of the crime after the family spoke, and then ordered Sexton to be executed.
"This murder was indeed a helpless, pitiless crime," the judge said.
On Sept. 22, 2010, a neighbor found Parlato raped and murdered in her New Port Richey home. Five days later, John Sexton was charged with the crime — a killing so heinous that then-Pasco County Sheriff Bob White called it pure evil and one of the worst his team had ever seen.
On April 17, Sexton's weeklong trial ended with a guilty verdict. On May 7, a jury recommended that he be put to death. In a recent jailhouse interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Sexton, 50, asserted his innocence and claimed that his lawyers' defense, which he called weak and flawed, was the reason for his conviction.
He claimed to be different from the other inmates because he could read and he filed tax returns.
He had a completely normal upbringing, he said.
Sexton grew up in Pangburn, Ark., and worked various jobs before he moved to Pasco, including sportswriting and industrial cleaning. He was Parlato's lawn man, and on the night of the murder, a neighbor heard a large bang and saw Sexton in the kitchen window of Parlato's house doing something in the sink. Her DNA was later found on his clothes.
Investigators said he crushed Parlato's skull and mutilated her upper body. Her lower body, he burned. There was a stab wound to her abdomen, inflicted after she died.
Sexton said he hoped for a death sentence because the appeals would proceed more quickly than with a life sentence. He's well aware of the decades it can take to execute a man.
He said he was sure he would die of natural causes before that happened.
Outside the courtroom, Parlato's neighbor and niece spoke to a half circle of television cameras and said they were joyful. For Barr to feel closure, she said, one more thing needed to be done.
"(It'll be over) when he takes his last breath," she said. "And I hope to be there."