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Jurors call for life term

A jury on Thursday recommended that an inmate convicted of killing an 83-year-old Largo woman in 1980 be given a life sentence, nine years after a judge ordered him put to death. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Mark McGarry set final sentencing for John Michael on Dec. 6.

Circuit Judge B. J. Driver imposed the death penalty on Michael in April 1981. But Florida Supreme Court justices in September 1988 affirmed a lower court order calling for the resentencing.

Michael's sentence was overturned in 1987 by a circuit judge who found that his attorney had not presented an adequate defense during the sentencing phase of his trial.

Michael, who was 37 at the time, was convicted of killing Fern Umble, a wealthy Largo woman whose body was found July 3, 1980, near Salt Lake in Tarpon Springs. She had been beaten, strangled and stabbed.

The body was not identified until July 15, after Michael reported the woman missing.

On Thursday, Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Rick Sheinis argued that Michael should be put to death because the crime was calculated and brutal.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Myers argued that jurors should be more lenient because Michael had been physically and sexually abused by relatives.