NEW PORT RICHEY — Sharon Sprout was convicted Thursday evening of second-degree murder for killing her longtime boyfriend Anthony Candiano in 2004.
The five-man, one-woman jury took a little more than four hours to reach the guilty verdict.
Circuit Judge Thane Covert set sentencing for Dec. 23. Sprout, 51, likely will get life in prison.
"Justice was served," the victim's daughter, Carol Candiano, said outside the courtroom.
Sprout and Candiano had been together for 29 years. They moved from New York to Port Richey in 1999. She was 46 and he was 64 when she shot him in the head in their bed with HIS and HERS pillows.
Authorities found one bullet in the bloody pillow and a Walther PPK pistol on the night stand.
Sprout, now 51, told authorities first that he had killed himself, and then she said there was a struggle and it was an accident, and then she said he had been so abusive and controlling for so many years that she finally just snapped and pulled the trigger. She said he had come home drunk the night before. She said he had raped her.
After the shooting, she said, she flipped facedown all the pictures of his family around the house, played some solitaire, sent some e-mail, took a shower, did her hair, picked up the paper and went to a neighbor's house to return a borrowed bowl. The neighbor took the stand earlier this week and said Sprout's demeanor that day was "normal."
Sprout didn't call 911 for 30 hours.
"It just happened," she told detectives.
Testimony came from 18 state witnesses. Two of them testified twice. Public defender Phil Cohen called no witnesses.
Was Sprout beaten? Jurors learned that no one ever saw any cuts or bruises on her body. Was she raped? There was no physical evidence of that. Was Candiano drunk? There was almost no alcohol in his system when he died. Was there a struggle before he was killed? No signs of it. Not in the bed. Not in the bedroom.
So what happened early that morning?
Medical examiner Jon Thogmartin testified Wednesday that the gun was fired within inches of Candiano's head. There were flecks of burning gun powder on his skin. It basically "nailed his head to the pillow" and turned his brain to "mush."
Remains unclear. Probably always will.
Prosecutor Eva Vergos built the case all week that Sprout wanted to be married in the worst way. But Candiano, who didn't want that, was thinking about leaving her, and Sprout knew that, according to the testimony of one of Candiano's friends. Sprout wanted Candiano to wear a wedding ring even though they weren't married. Sometimes he did, and sometimes he didn't. Sprout once told one of Candiano's friends that she loved Candiano "to death."
Two of Candiano's friends called his cell phone 12 hours after he died. The outgoing message was Sprout's voice. It said she and Candiano had just gotten married and were now on their honeymoon.
On Thursday in her closing argument, Vergos, the prosecutor, walked toward the jury and held up a picture.
"This," she told them, "is Anthony Candiano."
She held it there for a while.
"THIS is the man," she said, "THAT woman executed."
She turned toward Sprout.
"This isn't some tortured little woman," she told the jurors. "On that night she was the executioner."
Michael Kruse can be reached at email@example.com and (727) 869-6244.