BROOKSVILLE — A 25-year-old Spring Hill man was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday night for robbing a lock-and-key store in a crime rampage that included several armed robberies in Hernando County and surrounding areas.
Timothy Gartner, who spent two years in state prison for previous convictions, was arrested in December 2007. Authorities initially took a different man into custody but began focusing on Gartner after he tried to use a stolen credit card at Lollipops, an adult entertainment spot in Hudson.
Prosecutors said Gartner was lingering in Spring Hill Lock & Key on Dec. 19, 2007, when he pointed a BB gun at Jean Stanonis and demanded money.
"He said give me the money or I'll kill you," Stanonis testified Tuesday.
Witnesses in two other Spring Hill robberies also testified during the three-day trial. Prosecutor Erin Daly said the witnesses, including five in the lock-and-key store, left no doubt Gartner was the robber.
"He is a very serious danger to the community," Daly said. "These crimes were extremely violent in the way they were carried out."
In closing arguments, public defender David Bauer sought to prove that witnesses misidentified Gartner, noting that none described the robber as having freckles or being over 6 feet tall. Gartner is listed as standing 6-feet-4 in an arrest warrant.
"If you believe the descriptions taken at the time of the offense," Bauer said, "then it can't be him."
The jury of five men and one woman took almost three hours to find him guilty.
Because Gartner had been released from prison in May 2007 and accused of committing another first-degree felony almost seven months later, Circuit Court Judge Jack Springstead had no choice but to sentence Gartner to life.
"The judge's hands were tied," Bauer said. "He had no discretion in this case."
Gartner previously was sentenced to 30 years in prison for a robbery in Pasco County. Two other robbery charges against him in Hernando were dismissed and he has been charged with a similar offense in Citrus County.