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Man convicted in samurai sword killing

TAMPA — Prosecutors said Willie Tarpley Jr. fatally stabbed his estranged wife's new boyfriend with a samurai sword because he was enraged that his family had fallen apart.

Tarpley's attorneys said he only wanted to protect his young daughters from the boyfriend, a registered sex offender, and never meant to kill him.

On Wed­nesday, jurors found Tarpley guilty of second-degree murder.

They acquitted him of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a charge that arose after Tarpley's wife said he put the 42-inch blade to her throat.

Tarpley, 47, will be sentenced April 23.

Last April, Tarpley and his wife, Jacqueline, signed an agreement to end their marriage after 22 years without protracted divorce proceedings. They agreed to "settle once and for all for what we owe each other and what we can expect to receive from each other," court records show.

All that changed May 12.

Willie Tarpley learned his wife was dating Lee Alexander, a 25-year-old ranch hand from Polk County who had been convicted as a teenager of a lewd and lascivious act on a person younger than 16. He had served three months' probation for the crime.

The older man went to his former family home in Brandon to confront his wife. He didn't want Alexander around his daughters, then ages 3 and 15 months, Assistant State Attorney Samantha Ward said.

The Tarpleys, too, are registered sex offenders. They both served prison time for the October 1987 kidnapping and sexual torture of a 21-year-old woman.

This time, Willie Tarpley, a martial arts and weaponry expert, threatened Alexander with the sword, prosecutors said.

The younger man agreed to leave the house but backed into Tarpley's Corvette on the way out.

"That's the final straw," prosecutor Jennifer Gabbard said.

Tarpley stabbed Alexander three times through the open car window, Gabbard said. The younger man walked to the street, collapsed and bled to death.

Jacqueline Tarpley, 44, is now seeking to set aside the divorce settlement, court records show.

She prayed with supporters before the verdict Wednesday, then cried afterward.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Man convicted in samurai sword killing 04/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 7, 2008 5:07pm]
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