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Judge to decide Friday if man who killed Tampa police officer will be executed

TAMPA — Cindy Roberts has one more court hearing — and one hope: that the man who killed her police officer husband is sentenced to death.

Experts say the judge faces a difficult decision Friday. But Roberts, who was made a single mother by a single bullet, says it's easy.

"The actions that person took that evening warrant the death penalty" said Roberts, widow of Cpl. Mike Roberts.

For her, it's been a long 21/2 years that's seen tears, anxiety, depression and a little boy who talks to his father's headstone.

Her family still sets a place for the slain officer at Thanksgiving. Her son still includes his father in drawings.

But memories of scuba diving, hiking and swimming are becoming more distant.

Cindy Roberts says she misses her husband every day.

In November, Roberts sat through a two-week trial. She felt relief when jurors found Humberto Delgado Jr. guilty of killing her husband. She started shaking when jurors came back with a vote: 8-4 in favor of the death penalty.

On Friday, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles will decide whether Delgado deserves to die for his crime.

As for Roberts, it could be the last time she looks at Delgado, a man she refuses to call by name. To her, he's "that man" or "that dirtbag."

"It'll be a very emotional day," she said.

She'll be bolstered by a sea of blue.

During the trial, Tampa police officers wore street clothes. Prosecutors had asked them to leave their uniforms behind. The theory is their appearance could sway the jury.

No one wanted to create fodder for an appeal.

But now that the jury is out of the picture, police no longer worry. They don't believe their uniforms will affect the judge, said police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Chief Jane Castor emailed the hearing details to the entire agency.

"Everyone is encouraged to attend," she wrote.

Tampa Detective Greg Stout says he'll be there.

Stout, president of the city's police union, sat through every day of the trial except one. He also hopes Judge Battles will choose death.

Delgado knocked Roberts out before shooting him, witnesses testified during the trial.

"(Delgado) could have walked away," Stout said. "But he chose murder."

The defense has argued Delgado is mentally ill. He has previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He thought the Masons and even rapper 50 Cent were out to get him.

Doctors for the defense testified that, during the August 2009 shooting, Delgado — who was pushing a shopping cart of weapons along Nebraska Avenue — was impaired by psychotic delusions and paranoia.

"I don't doubt that he has a mental illness, that he believes the Masons were after him," Stout said. "But he's not insane."

Cindy Roberts expects Friday will be a culmination of everything prosecutors have been working toward: "Justice for Mike."

She pauses when she talks about what a death sentence might mean for her.

"Hopefully," she said, "it will in some way bring some kind of closure."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Judge to decide Friday if man who killed Tampa police officer will be executed 02/08/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2012 12:32am]
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