NEW PORT RICHEY — Lawrence Tener, who last year sought to fire the public defenders representing him in a 2004 murder case, revealed a new trial strategy Monday.
He will admit responsibility for the death of Tammy Lee Bowles in hopes of being convicted of a less-serious charge than first-degree murder, which carries a possible death sentence.
And he will testify in his own defense.
Authorities say that in October 2004, Tener, then 22, met the 43-year-old Bowles at a bar in Moon Lake. He and his roommate Steven Nicholson drove her back to Tener's mobile home on Linwood Street.
Tener and Bowles had sex, authorities say, but then he claimed she tried to steal his marijuana.
He smashed her in the head with an ax handle, authorities say, then raped her and buried her in a foot-deep grave.
No one had reported her missing.
But two months later, another woman named Joanna Herman reported meeting two men at the same Moon Lake bar and being beaten by one of them in a jealous rage.
Witnesses at the bar led investigators to Nicholson, which led to the arrest of Tener, whom Herman identified as her attacker. Detectives also learned from Nicholson that Tener had been involved in something else, something worse.
They obtained a warrant to search his property and found Bowles' body.
Assistant Public Defenders Michael Tewell and Dean Livermore represented Tener in the battery case involving Herman. A jury convicted him in just 30 minutes after the 2007 trial.
Last year, as Tewell and Livermore were preparing for the murder trial, Tener told a judge he would rather represent himself than have the same lawyers.
But on Monday, he sat between the two men and repeatedly told Circuit Judge Shawn Crane that he agreed with the new trial strategy.
Prosecutors will seek the death penalty if they win a first-degree murder conviction.
Tener could be angling for either second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Jury selection began Monday, and opening arguments are expected today. In addition to Tener taking the stand, the lawyers also revealed that several relatives of Bowles, who was a mother of four, will be called to testify.
"They don't know anything about who murdered their loved one," Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said, "but they have other things that shed light on the situation."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.