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Businessman found guilty in murder-for-hire scheme

A jury Thursday found a Daytona Beach businessman guilty of first-degree murder in the slayings of two men, including one death that was videotaped, and of conspiring to kill his wife in a bizarre murder-for-hire plot. Jurors deliberated about three and a half hours before returning a guilty verdict on all counts against Kosta Fotopoulos.

Circuit Judge S. James Foxman ordered the nine men and three women on the jury to return Monday to begin the sentencing phase. Jurors will decide whether to recommend life in prison or the death penalty.

Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty. The judge will make the final decision.

Prosecutors painted Fotopoulos, 31, as a cold, calculated killer. They contended he participated in the videotaped slaying of Mark Kevin Ramsey on Oct. 20, 1989, and killed Bryan Chase after hiring Chase to kill Fotopoulos's wife, Lisa, in the couple's home and make it look like a burglary.

Mrs. Fotopoulos survived the Nov. 4 shooting and testified that her husband wanted her dead for her money after she threatened to divorce him over his affair with Deidre Hunt, 21.

"This is a man with champagne taste and beer money in his pocket," Assistant State Attorney David Damore told jurors in closing arguments Thursday. "He's deeply in debt, his wife won't give him any more money. . . . There was no reason for Fotopoulos to want his wife dead except he realized this 5-foot, 1-inch individual held the purse strings in the family."

But Fotopoulos' attorney, Carmen Corrente, said Miss Hunt and her transient friends framed his client.

"Fotopoulos had everything he ever wanted, loved his wife and had even given up a $100,000-a-year job in his native Greece to get married," Corrente said. "As Mr. Fotopoulos sits here today, he's an innocent man."

Witnesses have testified that Fotopoulos, through his former lover and employee, Miss Hunt, enlisted Ramsey and Chase in a plot to kill Mrs. Fotopoulos so he could collect an insurance payoff.

Miss Hunt was sentenced to die in Florida's electric chair for the deaths of Ramsey and Chase, 18. She has testified that Fotopoulos forced her to kill Ramsey, 19, to ensure her cooperation in his plan to kill his wife.