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Pinellas judge sentences William Routenberg to life in prison for girlfriend's murder

LARGO — The woman in the green T-shirt inscribed with "peace," "love" and "hope" on the front leaned forward in the courtroom's first row.

What if, Kimberly Farrell whispered, the judge didn't say the word "life"?

"What have I told you?" prosecutor Doug Ellis said to her. "It's my job to worry about that stuff. It's not your job."

"Easier said than done," she murmured.

Farrell is the stepmother of Shanessa Chappie, who was 24 when she was stabbed to death in 2011. William Chad Routenberg, already a convicted rapist, was found guilty of the killing last month and, on Friday, faced sentencing.

Out of sight was the yellow notebook paper on which Farrell had written a statement that, through tears and trembling, she later read to the court.

"We are begging you," she said to the judge, "to make absolutely sure that Routenberg never gets out of prison for any reason whatsoever."

He won't. The judge said "life."

It was the second time in the last two decades that Routenberg had been given that sentence.

In 1990, at 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 raped 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 rejected the sentence. He was released by 2002 but remained on probation.

Then, in summer 2011, he stabbed his girlfriend in the neck and buried her body in the back yard of the home they shared near High Point. Investigators didn't find her for more than a month.

Routenberg, 37, represented himself at the February trial. He offered a disorganized, often-confusing argument for self-defense that, apparently, failed. A jury took just 52 minutes to find him guilty of second-degree murder.

"A child rapist, a drug dealer and a murderer," Ellis told the judge Friday. "This court will never see another individual as evil and as dangerous."

Routenberg's attorney, Jorge Angulo, had called a psychologist to testify about Routenberg's problems: bipolar disorder, attention-deficit disorder, polysubstance dependence. His girlfriend and mother both pleaded for mercy.

Throughout, Routenberg sat with his elbows on the defense table, his hands folded against his mouth. He reacted to nothing. He offered no statement.

Later, his mother, Sue Stansky, smoked a mint Union cigar in the parking lot of the Pinellas Criminal Justice Center. She called Chappie's death an accident. She insisted that her son was innocent. She said his confession to detectives was coerced.

Stansky offered little detail.

"My son isn't the monster they portrayed him to be," she said. "The truth will come out someday."

He has 30 days to appeal.

Pinellas judge sentences William Routenberg to life in prison for girlfriend's murder 06/07/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 11:25pm]
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