Monday, June 25, 2018
News Roundup

Rapist to represent himself at murder trial

LARGO — Like a demure preacher, the bald man with a thin goatee clutched both sides of the lectern and murmured into the microphone.

"If you were in the process," he said, then paused.

In front of him, a group of nearly 60 potential jurors were packed into the courtroom's first six rows. They sat, silently, waiting.

"I do apologize," he continued, just above a whisper. "If somebody was in the process of committing a crime at your home, do you believe you have the right to defend yourself?"

He asked everyone in the first row. Yes, they responded. He asked the second. Yes. He started to ask the third, when a man in the second spoke up.

"It depends what you mean by defend yourself," he said. "I don't believe it's right to take someone's life."

The man at the lectern sounded like a lawyer, sort of, but he didn't look like one.

He wore no tie and no suit. His checkered shirt was baggy. His dark slacks were loose. He had no belt. His black shoes were worn.

Still, it was hard to tell that the man at the lectern was a rapist, alleged killer and someone long ago described as "one of the scariest individuals we have ever had in this county."

William Chad Routenberg is on trial in the 2011 murder of his girlfriend, 24-year-old Shanessa Lynn Chappie. He announced last week that, after going through three attorneys, he wanted to represent himself.

On Tuesday, he helped select the six-person jury that will decide whether he's guilty and should spend the rest of his life in prison.

This was not his first courtroom experience.

In 1990, at the age of 14, Routenberg raped an 11-year-old girl at his St. Petersburg middle school. A judge sent him to the Dozier School for Boys.

There, Routenberg sexually assaulted a boy in a shower. Before sentencing Routenberg to life in prison in 1995, a judge told him: "You scare me to death."

An appeals court tossed out his life sentence. He was released by 2002, though he remained on probation. He had several run-ins with the law but avoided prison time.

Then, in the summer of 2011, authorities say he stabbed his girlfriend in the neck and buried her body in the back yard of the home they shared near High Point. Investigators didn't find her for more than a month.

Routenberg, now 37, admitted to detectives that he killed Chappie during an argument, authorities say. This week, he's expected to tell jurors he stabbed her in self-defense.

People seldom represent themselves, but Routenberg seemed insistent.

Not every potential juror was supportive.

One said it was a really bad idea. Two called it foolish.

"It's like the old saying," one of them said, "somebody who represents himself has got a fool for an attorney."

Another juror seemed offended.

"It will sway me," he said. "Just because I think it's not a wise decision."

The man, who noted that he had read many crime novels, said that when people represent themselves, it's as if they're wearing a T-shirt that says … the man paused.

"Can I say it?" he asked, apparently referring to the word "guilty."

"No," Judge Keith Meyer yelled before calling him to the bench.

One woman told the judge she was also biased, but for a different reason.

She knew Routenberg. They had met two years ago at Baby Dolls in Clearwater, where she worked as a stripper. After the killing, she explained, his arrest reports had been posted on the club's dressing room walls.

Neither she, nor any of his critics, made the jury.

Though Routenberg seldom appeared to take notes during the day's questioning, he seemed to know precisely who he didn't want to determine his fate.

In cases like this one, the defense can strike 10 jurors without an excuse. Routenberg used all 10.

Opening statements are scheduled for this morning. Routenberg has been preparing for six days. One of the two attorneys prosecuting his case, Doug Ellis, has been practicing for 28 years and has been preparing for months.

Comments
Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

Father dead, suspect in custody after hit-and-run driver plows into New Tampa family on bike ride

A Tampa man is dead and his 3-year-old son is in serious condition after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as they went on a family bike ride Sunday afternoon.A male suspect is in custody and being interviewed by police but his name has not yet be...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

A local hockey draftee? Mitchell grad Nathan Smith is just that

TAMPA — Every year during draft season, players from the Tampa Bay area are selected in the NFL, MLB and even NBA drafts.But NHL?Sure enough, in the third round of Saturday's NHL draft, the Jets selected Nathan Smith, a forward who was born in ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

Office building demolition at Midtown Tampa site proves tougher than expected

TAMPA ó Stripped to the girders, the old Bromley office building looked about as substantial as fish bones on a dinner plate.But the 5-story structure proved Sunday it still had a surprising amount of fight left in it.A demolition team had planned to...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays season turning into good one

Rays season turning into good one

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Rays are not the best team in baseball. They are not going to win the World Series this year. Heck, they probably won't even make the playoffs.But I tell you what. This team is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.And ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

Rays beat Yankees in 12 innings on Jake Bauers homer

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays first baseman Jake Bauers sat at his locker after Sunday afternoon's 7-6, 12-inning win over the Yankees and thumbed through his text messages. There was no way he could get through them all. That's what happens when ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

Rays journal: Yarbrough comes through, Venters to DL, support for Ramos

ST. PETERSBURG — Ryan Yarbrough was only supposed to throw on Sunday if it was an emergency. In the 12th inning with the score tied 6-6 and a runner on first, there was an emergency.Jonny Venters tweaked his right hamstring trying to cover firs...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURGSuspect dead, 2 injured in home invasion, shootingThree people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the peop...
Updated: 10 hours ago
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. Thatís what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

Head-on crash kills Pasco teenager, injures three

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A 19-year-old driver died in a three-car crash on Moon Lake Road on Saturday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol reported.Jillian Faith Hitt, 19 and of New Port Richey, was driving north on the road in a 2008 Hyundai Accent, weari...
Published: 06/24/18
President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

President Trumpís trade war threatens the US newspaper industry

STERLING, Ill. - As a longtime editor of small-town newspapers, Jeff Rogers has seen his industry face the collapse of print advertising, the rise of the internet and more. Today, his 18 employees work in a newsroom here that puts out two daily newsp...
Published: 06/24/18