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Man who faked death surrenders

With his beard gone and an attorney by his side, Kevin Jerome Callahan came out of hiding Tuesday and ended the doubts he created about his fate.

He had tried to fake his death Jan. 28, the day a Pinellas County jury convicted him of stabbing his wife. Facing a life prison term and free on $40,000 bail, Callahan left a suicide note in his pickup truck near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Authorities didn't take the bait.

The search for Callahan, 34, of St. Petersburg continued in Florida and other states until he turned himself in about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Pinellas County Jail. He was accompanied by Ronnie Crider, the attorney who represented him during the six-day trial.

Crider said Callahan called him Monday night and agreed to meet him at a Feather Sound drugstore Tuesday morning. Crider drove him to the jail, a short distance away on 49th Street.

"He didn't say where he'd been, and I didn't ask him," Crider said. "I didn't want to know."

As to why his client returned, Crider said: "To me, at least, it's pretty obvious. You're never going to be able to run forever. Everybody gets caught, and I think he knew that."

The case grabbed attention after Callahan blamed the 1990 stabbing on a mix of prescription drugs he had taken, including the controversial anti-depressant Prozac.

From there, the peculiar twists began to multiply. Callahan fled after the attack and was found 36 hours later, apparently struck by lightning on the Gandy Bridge. His wife initially cooperated with prosecutors, then testified in Callahan's defense, but also became the prosecution's star witness. Then Callahan fled.

Sheriff's spokesman Greg Tita said investigators did not know much about Callahan's disappearance except that he had been outside Pinellas County.

Callahan's mother, Grace Callahan of St. Petersburg, said Tuesday she was too upset to discuss the case.

His wife, Janet Dianne Callahan, 30, could not be reached.

Although county records show a divorce for the couple is pending, Callahan married another woman, Diane Elizabeth Jensen, in Sarasota on Jan. 17.

Authorities had contemplated bigamy charges, but expressed doubts Tuesday that any would be filed.

Doubts arose about the suicide note after a witness told police he saw Callahan's truck parked near the Skyway bridge at 5 p.m. Jan. 27. Callahan was in his trial until 6:30 p.m. that day. He didn't appear in court the following day, when jurors found him guilty.

Callahan was charged Tuesday with failing to appear at a court proceeding.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Brandt C. Downey III set a March 20 sentencing date for that charge and for the attempted murder. Callahan also faces prison time for violating his probation on a 1984 arson conviction.

Meanwhile, Crider has filed a motion seeking a new trial. The motion argues that Downey improperly allowed testimony about Callahan's character, his previous convictions and alleged violent acts for which Callahan had not been convicted.

A hearing on the motion is scheduled next week.

Even with a life sentence, it is possible for an inmate with credit for good behavior to be released from prison. But Downey said it is also possible for him to order that Callahan serve at least 15 years of the life sentence because of a previous violent offense _ the arson.

He said Callahan faces up to 10 years for failing to appear on the last day of his trial. But that sentence, he said, probably would be served concurrently with the one for attempted murder.

Callahan "is going to be looking at a long time in prison," Downey said.

He added: "I'm glad he's not dead. I was concerned the day of the trial."