DADE CITY — Almost seven years ago, a 59-year-old truck driver was found in the parking lot of an Interstate 75 truck stop, unconscious and bleeding from a severe beating.
Roger Lee Ware, who lived in Milan, Ohio, died a day later of head injuries.
A year later, authorities arrested a man depicted in court documents as Ware's romantic rival: Michael Louis Berencsi, a fellow truck driver.
Facing a charge of second-degree murder, Berencsi, 56, pleaded guilty Thursday to a lesser charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
According to authorities, Ware had planned to meet a woman for dinner on Nov. 4, 2002, at the Dixie Boy truck stop on State Road 52 near Dade City. He had hoped she would be his trucking partner, but he also had romantic interests in mind.
Berencsi was also involved with the woman. When Ware went to meet her for dinner, Berencsi was waiting instead.
He beat Ware, records say, possibly with a crowbar or a baseball bat, and left him lying in his own blood.
Berencsi, who lived in Hudson, was a fugitive when he was arrested in November 2003 in Massachusetts. Authorities had thought he might be in southeast Massachusetts because a girlfriend of his had relatives in the area. He was arrested at gunpoint.
According to family members quoted in court documents, Ware and Berencsi had a tangled history. When Ware divorced his wife in Ohio, Berencsi showed up at their divorce hearing with her. Berencsi's sons described him as a volatile and paranoid man who drank heavily.
None of Ware's relatives were in court Thursday to speak. Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia said he had consulted with them about the plea agreement.
"They wanted to get it behind them and move on with their lives," Garcia said.
Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa asked Berencsi whether he wanted to say anything before the sentencing was final.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.