BROOKSVILLE — Last month, Stanley Elias Eckard turned down a plea offer that would have capped his sentence for killing his brother at 20 years.
On Monday, Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti sentenced Eckard to serve more than twice that long — 50 years.
"No parent should have to endure what you have endured," Tatti told Eckard's parents, Samuel and Donna, who had asked for a new trial.
"But this is not a crime that just involves your family. One of your sons took the life of another son, and our society recognizes that murder is the highest crime. And for murder, there should be punishment."
Stanley Eckard, 24, has always maintained that he didn't mean to kill his brother, Sean, three summers ago before burying him in the side yard of the Spring Hill home the men shared with their parents.
Prosecutors charged Eckard with first-degree murder. Last month, a jury decided the evidence didn't prove he planned the killing and convicted him of second-degree murder.
During Monday's sentencing hearing, Donna and Samuel Eckard sobbed as they asked Tatti to reevaluate the case.
"This is not a homicide," Donna Eckard said. "This is a tragic accident that the family has suffered."
Then Stanley Eckard apologized to his family.
"I made bad decisions and I just continued making them," he said. "I wish there was some way I could take it back, but it doesn't matter, because I can't … I'm just sorry."
Eckard has said that his brother died as the two men struggled in Sean Eckard's bedroom in early in the morning of June 19, 2010. Stanley Eckard said he heard a pop in his brother's neck as the two men fell to the floor, and that he hid Sean's body to protect his mother, who has a weak heart, from the shock of the news. He said he planned to tell his father after his mother left for a trip.
During last month's trial, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino highlighted testimony that showed Stanley Eckard was attracted to a woman that his brother was dating.
In the two days after burying his brother, Magrino said, Stanley Eckard sent texts to his brother's girlfriend telling her that they could be together because Sean Eckard was breaking up with her.
On Monday, Chief Assistant Public Defender Alan Fanter asked Tatti for leniency, noting that a long prison term would only add to the parents' pain.
"We ask the court to give the Eckard family some hope of getting back together as a family," he said.
Magrino asked Tatti to send Eckard to prison for life.
"He's a sociopath that should not come out of prison except in a supine position," Magrino said.
When Tatti announced his verdict, the Eckards once again began to sob.
"Fifty years!" Donna Eckard said, again and again.
Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.