Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Representing himself, Routenberg says he killed girlfriend in self-defense

William Chad Routenberg is representing himself after going through three lawyers. He admits he killed his girlfriend, but says it was self-defense. The rapist faces up to life in prison, a sentence he had gotten once before.


William Chad Routenberg is representing himself after going through three lawyers. He admits he killed his girlfriend, but says it was self-defense. The rapist faces up to life in prison, a sentence he had gotten once before.

LARGO — William Chad Routenberg's task seemed lofty.

Accused of murdering his former girlfriend, he was minutes from giving the critical opening statement at his own trial. He announced last week that, after going through three attorneys, he wanted to represent himself. He had been preparing for Wednesday's big moment for just six days.

But Routenberg's turn to speak came second. First, the jury of six had heard from prosecutor Della Connolly. She told them this:

In the summer of 2011, Routenberg stabbed his girlfriend in the neck. He put her body in a trash can. He called a friend and told him he had "done something real bad." He eventually told the friend that he had killed her. He showed the friend his bedroom, painted in blood. He borrowed some saw blades. He asked the friend to help him heft her body into the bathtub so he could cut it up. He threatened to kill the friend if he told anyone. He paid another friend to probe the back yard for plumbing pipes. He dug a 6-foot-deep hole. He tied his girlfriend's leg behind her head so she would fit. He buried her.

More than a month later — after the friend turned him in — Routenberg was arrested. He told detectives that he didn't know where she was, that she had left him, that she was with a former boyfriend. He suggested places for them to look. When detectives told him they had found the body, Connolly said, he acted shocked. Finally, she continued, Routenberg admitted that he killed his girlfriend, 24-year-old Shanessa Lynn Chappie, but he said she attacked him first. He had done it in self-defense.

"Ask yourself," Connolly told jurors, "if any of what he says is reasonable at all."

Routenberg looked confident as he approached the lectern. He wore a baggy, gray-striped button-down and sagging khaki pants with no belt. He spread out his papers and looked at the jurors. "We are here today for a very serious reason," he said. "The defendant is not going to deny that."

Over the next 20 minutes, Routenberg delivered a rambling, loosely organized series of broken thoughts and sentences. He denied threatening his friend and insisted he killed Chappie in self-defense, but otherwise didn't disagree with much of what Connolly had said.

Routenberg twice presented puzzling analogies to illustrate the complexities of his case.

"Your job here is not going to be as simple as the state outlined. Everything always has two sides," he said. "If you flip a coin, it's not going to land on heads every time. Every once in a while, it's going to hit tails."

And later:

"Don't rush to judgment," he said, "because sometimes you go to that car lot and you see a shiny car and you kick the tires. It looks all pretty, then you lift the hood and there's no engine."

Throughout, he referred to himself in the third person — "the defendant."

He's gone by that name before.

In 1990, at the age of 14, he 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.

On Wednesday, Routenberg seemed determined to keep avoiding it. "All I'm asking for you to do is consider the evidence," he said. "Consider the source of the evidence and then I have no doubt you will come back with a verdict of not guilty."

Representing himself, Routenberg says he killed girlfriend in self-defense 02/20/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Putin visits France, hopes to mend strained ties with West


    VERSAILLES, France — On a visit likely to shape Russia-France ties for years, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the sumptuous Palace of Versailles on Monday for what the newly-elected French leader said would be "demanding" talks on Syria, the Ukrainian crisis and other …

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, France, Monday. Monday's meeting comes in the wake of the Group of Seven's summit over the weekend where relations with Russia were part of the agenda, making Macron the first Western leader to speak to Putin after the talks. [AP photo]
  2. Five cool things to do when it's hot outside


    Summer is not officially here, but it may as well be. School is out, vacations are coming, and it's time to enjoy the outdoors. Don't buy the argument that summer in Florida is too hot to get outside. There is plenty to do, and we'll prove it. Here are five cool things to do outdoors during another hot summer.

    Rainbow Springs State Park is a registered natural landmark. Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon is one several state parks with natural swimming holes in Florida. (Octavio Jones | Times)
  3. Clearwater man dies after diving from boat into shallow waters

    Public Safety

    A 49-year-old man died after he jumped off a pontoon boat into shallow waters Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

  4. Restaurant review: Features Gastropub in Riverview is fine as movie theater fare, but unimpressive otherwise

    Food & Dining

    Movies aren't exactly dying. Despite all the sturm und drang of predictions that Netflix and streaming videos would kill the cinema, global box office receipts hit $38.6 billion in 2016, a 1 percent gain over the previous year. But that doesn't mean going to the cinema is precisely what it was a generation …

    The Features Gastropub is located inside the Riverview 14 GDX theater in Gibsonton, Fla. on Thursday, May 25, 2017.   The 5,900-square-foot Features Gastropub open in the . This element of the project is the brainchild of Philadelphia chef Brian Duffy, who appears frequently on NBC's The Today Show and the Spike TV show Bar Rescue
  5. JFK's last birthday: Gifts, champagne and wandering hands on the presidential yacht


    It has been 100 years since John F. Kennedy's birth on May 29, 1917, at his parents' home in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston. Over the course of his life, Kennedy enjoyed lavish birthday celebrations, the most famous being a Democratic fundraising bash at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962, when a sequined …

    President John F. Kennedy aboard the Sequoia in 1963 opening birthday presents. [Robert Knudsen | John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum]