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Man who killed girlfriend with screwdriver gets 40 years

TAMPA — To Van Phan spent 6 1/2 years in prison for torturing his then-wife with a cigarette lighter.

A judge sent him away for much longer Wednesday after Phan pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing his pregnant girlfriend with a screwdriver.

Phan, 39, did not make any statement before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Foster sentenced him to 40 years in state prison for committing second-degree murder with a weapon.

But on Feb. 22, 2006, Phan told a friend that he stabbed Sonya Simone during a fight. He said he was trying to get her to stop using drugs and that she threatened to kick him out of her home.

Phan told Tampa police that he had killed the 37-year-old mother of three after she said she wanted to get an abortion, prosecutor Mark Lewis said Wednesday. Simone was in her first trimester.

Phan stabbed Simone multiple times in the neck and scalp, then drove her body to the friend's house. He admitted on a 911 call to killing her, Lewis said, and led police to Simone's body.

Phan was found incompetent to stand trial but later had his competency restored.

He had a history of domestic violence, including past threats against Simone.

In 1993, Phan was convicted of one count of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated battery and one count of simple battery for the torture of his then-wife, Thu Ahn Lee.

He burned her genitals with a cigarette lighter He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but good behavior got him an early release.

This time around, the law requires him to serve at least 85 percent of the prison time called for by the plea agreement with prosecutors.

Two of Simone's children attended the court hearing Wednesday with their aunt and grandmother. Brianna Simone, the oldest child at 17, choked up as she spoke to the judge.

"I miss her," she said.

The victim's sister now cares for the children.

"It devastated my family," Shirley Schmotzer said of her sister's death. "We'll never be the same."

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

Man who killed girlfriend with screwdriver gets 40 years 11/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 21, 2008 5:57pm]
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