NEW PORT RICHEY — Their marriage started out as a way for Orane Ferguson, a native of Jamaica, to get his green card.
But gradually Michelle Ferguson grew to truly love her husband, her sister said. She paraded him around because she was proud of how handsome he was. She wanted to have a baby.
But Orane Ferguson saw it a different way. He felt humiliated and trapped by a woman who was controlling his life but whose help he needed to stay in the country.
They argued frequently, and on July 20, 2008, Michelle Ferguson, 35, began fussing at her husband for deciding to cook food for himself and no one else.
The spat turned violent and Ferguson armed himself with a kitchen knife, chased his wife into the bathroom of their Ballantrae home and stabbed her more than 50 times.
A 12-member jury deliberated almost three hours Wednesday before finding him guilty of first-degree murder. He was also convicted of aggravated battery of his wife's son, Gabriel Neal, who tried to intervene in the fight and save his mother.
Ferguson, 31, was immediately sentenced to life in prison.
He showed no reaction and said he did not want to appeal the case.
Michelle Ferguson's sister, Lakesha Robinson, said her sister was a beautiful person whose only mistake was falling for the wrong man.
"Her life has finally been assigned some value," Robinson said after the sentencing.
Makeeba Neal, another relative, spoke in opposition to Orane Ferguson's unflattering portrayal of his wife.
"We heard a lot of negative things about Michelle today, but it was all one-sided," Neal said. "I knew Michelle as a caring person, and I miss her."
The couple met at Ferguson's brother's funeral in 2005. She offered to marry him, Robinson said, as a favor to her friend, Ferguson's sister.
But while Michelle Ferguson saw a budding relationship, Orane Ferguson was still only in it to gain citizenship. He testified he resisted her requests for a sexual relationship and to have a baby.
The day of the stabbing, as his wife was cursing at him, he said he just lost control.
"I guess by then I just lost it," Ferguson said. "I saw her, and next thing I know I just went at her. Next thing I remember I was in the bathroom and Gabriel was beating down the door.
"Some light came in the bathroom," Ferguson said, "and that's when I realized I was standing over Michelle."
He cried from the witness stand as he described how the reality of what happened washed over him.
"The only memory that I really got at the time was me punching her, just punching her, punching her, punching her. But then reality hit me," he said.
"I realized I was stabbing her."
Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis raised questions about Ferguson's account.
Ferguson has vivid recall about everything, Halkitis said, "but he can't tell us what happened in the bathroom. He doesn't want to tell us what happened in the bathroom. It's poison."
Willie Pura, Ferguson's attorney, had argued for a manslaughter conviction. He said Ferguson had no intention of killing his wife.
"There's no ill will, hatred, spite, evil intent formed. He just snapped," Pura said.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 992-8665.