Sobbing Pinellas murder defendant accuses ex-girlfriend

LARGO — Robert Glenn Temple took the witness stand Friday and declared "I didn't kill my wife" as he sobbed repeatedly without any visible tears.

He vaguely blamed the former girlfriend who testified against him, telling the jury "I think Lesley did."

But the strangest thing in this already strange murder trial on Friday was that Temple hardly tried to explain his theory of how his former girlfriend supposedly killed his wife.

Temple, 61, has decided to act as his own attorney in his murder trial this week, declaring that he would rather be "captain of my own ship" than rely on an experienced attorney supplied by the Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender's Office.

But Temple's ship seemed rudderless on Friday. By representing himself, Temple had the right to cross-examine the former girlfriend, Lesley L. Stewart, 34, for more than two hours. But his questions seemed random and focused on trivial matters that had little to do with his guilt or innocence — such as how she processed checks on her job a dozen years ago and which classes she took at St. Petersburg College.

And though Temple previously maintained that his wife died as she and Stewart struggled with a knife, he neglected to ask Stewart about that during her hours on the witness stand.

Instead he asked a fuzzier question, "Isn't it true, Lesley, that I didn't kill my wife?"

"That's not true" said Stewart, a stern look forming on her face.

Temple also asked if it was true that "you thought I was going to call the police on you and this is how I end up?"

"That's not true," she repeated.

Temple also called himself as a witness and spoke for more than an hour, interrupted frequently by Assistant State Attorney William Loughery, who wearily called out, "objection, relevance?"

Afterward Temple, who suffers from a variety of ailments, complained of feeling ill and was rolled out of the courtroom in his wheelchair, holding a wastebasket. Shortly afterward, a medical supervisor said his vital signs were fine.

During closing arguments today, prosecutors will likely be much more direct in explaining their theory — that Temple stabbed Christensen to death in 1999 in their Belleair condo and persuaded Stewart to help him dispose of the body and cover up the crime.

Temple also will get to make his own closing argument. It's likely the case will go to the jury today.

The key evidence in the case is the testimony of Stewart, who stayed quiet for years after the 1999 killing, but came forward in 2008 and said Temple was the killer. She said Temple told her Christensen attacked him with a knife, and she was stabbed in the ensuing struggle.

Loughery, however, pointed to medical testimony that Christensen died of multiple stab wounds — indicating it wasn't an accident.

Temple is charged with first-degree murder.

Christensen, who is from Australia, was a real estate agent and previously had been married to a Dutch diplomat. Temple worked the graveyard shift at a call center, where he met Stewart, who became his sexual partner.

Stewart testified that she came to Temple's condo after the murder in August 1999 and saw Christensen's body — and that Temple convinced her she would go to prison for 30 years if she didn't keep quiet and help him cover it up.

This account was corroborated by attorney Jay Hebert, whom Stewart spoke to in 1999. Hebert testified Friday, but could not go to police at the time of the killing because of attorney-client privilege. He kept the secret for nine years until Stewart came forward in 2008.

Stewart portrayed Temple as controlling and threatening, yet she stayed with him for nine years. She recalled telling him in 2008 that she had saved his life by not turning him in to police.

This led Temple to ask Friday, "If I had killed my wife and you had 'saved my life' do you have a reason why I would be threatening and intimidating the person that could get me locked up?"

"Yes because I held your secret," she told him from the witness stand. "You were afraid I was going to turn you in."

Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8232.

Sobbing Pinellas murder defendant accuses ex-girlfriend 07/29/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 30, 2011 12:14am]

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