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Man who murdered cab driver in Clearwater gets death sentence

LARGO — Pinellas-Pasco Judge Joseph A. Bulone did not reveal much emotion on Friday as he listed his reasons for giving Genghis Kocaker the death penalty.

But there was terror in his words.

Bulone said Kocaker killed cab driver Eric J. Stanton in a heinous way in a Clearwater parking lot in 2004. Kocaker stabbed Stanton in his cab, beat him, put him in the trunk and tied him up. He set the cab on fire. Stanton struggled in the trunk, kicked out the back seats, forced his way into the front, but suffocated before he could escape.

"Mr. Stanton was aware of his impending death," Bulone said.

A jury last year convicted Kocaker of murder and recommended by an 11-1 vote that Bulone sentence him to death.

Kocaker, now 46, also had been convicted of manslaughter in 1981 for shooting and killing another man, and also had been convicted of eight robberies.

He spent 13 years in prison and committed the murder two months after getting out. He was on probation at the time.

Bulone listed the "mitigating factors" — those that argue against the death penalty. Among them: mental health issues, past abuse, his loving family, his past drug issues, the fact that he may have been drinking alcohol, the fact that he may have brain damage and is HIV-positive.

But these did not outweigh the aggravating factors that made death an appropriate sentence, Bulone said.

At the time of his death, Stanton was planning to begin college and was thinking of starting a family, said his mother, Kyra Guiliano of New Port Richey.

"He was a computer whiz," she said.

Speaking a week before Christmas, she said there's a void at every holiday dinner.

"Time does not diminish the impact of that empty chair."

Man who murdered cab driver in Clearwater gets death sentence 12/18/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2009 11:06pm]
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