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Pasco jury recommends death penalty in 2006 murder

A Pasco jury recommended late Wednesday that Derral Wayne Hodgkins, 46, be sentenced to death. He was convicted this week by a jury in the killing Teresa Lodge, 46, in the fall of 2006.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

A Pasco jury recommended late Wednesday that Derral Wayne Hodgkins, 46, be sentenced to death. He was convicted this week by a jury in the killing Teresa Lodge, 46, in the fall of 2006.

DADE CITY — When Derral Wayne Hodgkins choked and stabbed Teresa Lodge to death in September 2006, it wasn't his first act of violence.

Jurors considering whether Hodgkins should be put to death or serve life in prison for Lodge's murder learned Wednesday that he also had raped and battered a 12-year-old girl in Hillsborough County in 1987.

After hearing the details of that brutal attack, the jury, by a 7-5 vote, recommended that Hodgkins be put to death.

Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa has the final decision, and by law he must give the jury's recommendation great weight. A formal sentencing hearing will be held later.

Hodgkins, 51, shook his head and stared at the floor as the jury's recommendation was read Wednesday evening. He was convicted Monday of killing Lodge, a 46-year-old diner cook who was found dead by a friend in a pool of her own blood. Prosecutors say Hodgkins and Lodge knew each other years earlier. When he went to her Land O'Lakes apartment in the fall of 2006, they got into a struggle. Hodgkins choked and beat Lodge, then stabbed her seven times and slashed her throat.

But as Lodge fought for her life, clawing and scratching at Hodgkins, she scraped bits of his DNA under her fingernails, which turned out to be the key piece of evidence that led to his arrest a year later.

In arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors called the killing "conscienceless, pitiless and torturous."

"This was in fact a brutal, vile, sadistic beating of Teresa Lodge," Assistant State Attorney Glenn Martin said.

Those words might also fit what happened to a 12-year-old girl living in Balm, in eastern Hillsborough County, in 1987.

Hodgkins, then 28, had gone to the girl's house to buy marijuana from her mother. The woman wasn't at home, and Hodgkins later told a detective that when the daughter showed up, they began talking on the hood of his car.

That led to kissing in the backseat. The girl told him she didn't want her mother to come home and find them. Hodgkins persisted, and the girl started screaming, so he put his hands around her throat to quiet her.

Then, he told the detective, he got in the front seat and drove to a deserted road. He dragged her out of the car, ripped off her clothes and began to have sex with her. She told him she was a virgin.

When a car drove by and she screamed again, Hodgkins said he didn't know what to do so he started hitting her. When she lost consciousness, he thought he'd killed her.

In a panic, Hodgkins said he drove off quickly, driving over the girl as she lay motionless on the ground. He didn't look back.

He stopped at a convenience store to compose himself, then drove home to his wife and claimed to have had car trouble.

Hodgkins ended up pleading guilty to that crime and going to prison. He was released in 2004 on lifetime probation.

He grew up in a poor family of migrant workers and was frequently abused, Hodgkins told doctors who evaluated him. He dropped out of school early and married for the first time at age 16. That union lasted less than a year, but a psychologist said Hodgkins maintained a pattern of getting involved with younger women.

As an adult, he did maintenance at a Holiday Inn, worked in lawn service and drove a truck. He fathered two sons.

A few family members testified that they love him and would visit him in prison. His daughter-in-law, though, hadn't heard the details of the rape until Wednesday.

"I didn't know the whole story," Tabitha Hodgkins said. "I feel like he played me like a sucker."

Defense attorney Danny Hernandez, in arguing for a life sentence, called Lodge's killing "an act of rage by a mentally disturbed person who snapped," and said Hodgkins had already accepted responsibility for the rape and served his sentence.

But Assistant State Attorney Jim Hellickson told jurors that the rape conviction loomed large in Hodgkins' mind as he was squeezing the life out of Teresa Lodge.

"What did he learn from that?" Hellickson said. "Don't — do not leave a victim alive."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or on Twitter at @mollymoorhead.

Pasco jury recommends death penalty in 2006 murder 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 8:58pm]
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