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Of all the murder trials in Pasco in 2013, three stand out

Of all the murder trials in Pasco this year, three stood out. Perhaps the most brutal and noteworthy was John Sexton, 50, found guilty of murdering, raping and mutilating a 94-year old woman named Ann Parlato. He was sentenced to death.

Harleme Larry, 18, was 14 years old when he shot a man in Dade City named Agustin Hernandez in an apparent robbery that netted him a mere $4. A judge sentenced him to life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

One trial put a man in jail for life — 30 years after he killed his wife. William Hurst, 62, was found guilty of murder after DNA matched an unidentified Jane Doe to Amy Rose Hurst.

The 29-year-old mother of two disappeared from her New Port Richey home in September of 1982. A fishing boat crew found her unidentifiable body the next month several miles off the coast of Anna Maria Island. Her body, wrapped in an afghan and a green bedspread, was tied to a concrete block.

Several witnesses for the prosecution testified the couple had a volatile relationship and that Hurst often struck his wife. When she disappeared, detectives questioned Hurst but could not arrest him because they had no body, and thus no crime.

The body went unidentified until 2011 when her son, James Earley, found an online database about missing people and submitted a matching DNA sample. The image of Hurst beating his mother stayed with him his whole life, he said.

"We did our sentence for 30 years," Earley said after the conviction. "He gets to do his now."

Larry went to trial the first week of June. The young man had a troubled upbringing — his stepfather killed his mother when he was just 3 years old. His grandmother raised him, but she fell ill and he started having behavioral problems she couldn't handle.

On the night of July 10, 2010, authorities said he approached four men sitting on a truck bed on Oak Street in Dade City. He demanded money with a gun in his hand. The man he killed, Hernandez, was a married father of two. Jurors deliberated for 10 hours in June before they found him guilty.

In Florida, defendants convicted of first-degree murder face either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility for parole. However, a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case — Miller vs. Alabama — struck down mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles. That meant Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa had more leeway in Larry's sentencing.

"A life without the possibility of redemption isn't appropriate for a 14-year-old," Siracusa said.

Sexton faced a jury of his peers in April. Prosecutors said he killed Parlato in her Port Richey home on Sept. 22, 2010. He crushed her skull and mutilated her upper body. Her lower parts, he burned. There was a stab wound to her abdomen, inflicted after she died. It was a crime so brutal then-Sheriff Bob White called it one of the worst his team had ever seen.

Sexton's lack of an alibi besides "I didn't do it" and Parlato's DNA on his clothes the day after the murder cemented his conviction.

During and after his trial, he complained about his representation — lawyers were appointed for him by the state — and blamed the jury's conclusion on his attorneys' incompetence. In a jailhouse interview, he painted himself as normal and said he wasn't like other criminals. He wanted the death penalty, he said, because the appeals moved more quickly than with a life sentence.

He did not react when Circuit Judge Mary Handsel sentenced him to be executed.

"This murder was indeed a helpless, pitiless crime," the judge said.

Of all the murder trials in Pasco in 2013, three stand out 01/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 3, 2014 7:24pm]
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