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Exchange student's killer faces life term

A jury took less than an hour Monday to recommend life in prison for a Tampa man convicted of beating a teenage exchange student to death last year.

The jury found Robert John Barthmaier guilty last week of the first-degree murder of Mehmet Bahar, a Turkish student who was brutally punched and stomped to death after a traffic altercation Sept. 18.

They returned to the courtroom Monday to recommend life or death as Barthmaier's punishment.

Prosecutors said Barthmaier and his friend, Joseph Wagner, were enraged when Bahar's car cut them off. They descended upon him.

The jury saw the results of the beating through autopsy photos, which showed the young man's head disfigured by 10 to 20 blows.

Monday, jurors heard of Barthmaier's previous crimes, including when he used a knife to chase a high school student in 1987 and the time he was convicted of bashing a friend in the head with a baseball bat in 1992.

The jury also heard testimony about the more human side of Barthmaier, who had to repeat first grade three times, loved his dog and had a troubled family life. At 24, he wasn't even able to handle a checking account, his mother said.

It took the jury about 40 minutes to recommend life in prison without possibility of release for 25 years.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Simms said he would follow the jury's recommendation at a hearing April 19.

Wagner's trial is scheduled for June 6.

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