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Personal trainer gets death penalty in murders of Clearwater couple

LARGO — For brutally killing a Clearwater couple in a botched attempt to steal money from a safe, former personal trainer Richard T. Robards was sentenced to death Friday.

Robards was convicted earlier this year of murdering Linda and Frank Deluca, 59 and 60 respectively, in their Clearwater home. Friday, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Joseph A. Bulone said Robards "has forfeited his right to live."

Robards, 43, a title-winning bodybuilder, once worked as a personal trainer for the Delucas, and had learned they stored thousands of dollars in their safe. He stabbed the Delucas, apparently with a knife, but never managed to open the safe.

"In an act of incomprehensible demented savagery, they were terrorized and slaughtered by a person to whom they had shown nothing but kindness and regard," said family spokesman William Whitman, who is married to Linda Deluca's sister.

Bulone cited aggravating factors in the 2006 killings that made the death penalty appropriate. One was that the killings were especially brutal.

Robards stabbed both Delucas repeatedly, slitting both their throats and puncturing Frank Deluca's lung. At least one of them would have been alive to see the other being attacked, Bulone said. At least one was coughing up blood during the attack.

Another aggravating factor was Robards' motive: robbery.

Bulone also cited factors that might provide some argument against the death penalty, including his family history, his history of traumatic injury and steroid use. But he said these were outweighed by the aggravating factors.

Although Robards killed to get money from the safe, his efforts to get it were amateurish and unsuccessful. During the trial, Assistant State Attorney Frank Schaub called him the "world's dumbest criminal."

On the day of the murders, he had asked a friend for help transporting a safe; the friend declined. He tried to set the house on fire to destroy evidence, but the fire burned out. Among the things he left behind was his own fingerprint.

Robards maintained his innocence for years, but said in a recent court hearing that he had to "accept full responsibility for the two lives that I have taken. … I hope one day that the Deluca family will forgive me for what I have taken from them."

Friday did not appear to be that day.

"I will be there to watch his death," vowed Debbie Deluca, the couple's daughter.

But she and some other family members said the death penalty had not been the most important thing to them. Most important was seeing Robards convicted and sentenced, so the trial is behind them.

"Our goal was to get this guy out of our lives," Whitman said.

Schaub warned family members that a long series of appeals is likely to follow, as in every death penalty case.

Personal trainer gets death penalty in murders of Clearwater couple 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 11:36pm]
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