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Man says he didn't mean to kill stranger who "assaulted' him

According to Steven Dent, the chain of events that led to Robert Dussault's death started with a cigarette.

Dent, on trial this week for first-degree murder, testified Tuesday that when he asked Dussault for a cigarette outside the Keystone Club in downtown St. Petersburg, he had no idea that before the night was over he would kill the stranger.

"I didn't set out to do that," Dent, 31, testified. "It just happened."

Dussault, 58, was known among the other regulars at the Keystone Club bar as a polite, quiet man. Dent's testimony painted a less flattering portrait.

At the time, Dent was living with Ron Silvia. Neither was employed. On the evening of March 19, 1995, Dent announced he was going out. According to Silvia, Dent said he was going to find some money. Dent denies saying that.

Dent said he bumped into Dussault coming out of the Keystone Club. He saw Dussault had a pack of cigarettes so he asked for one. Dussault invited him back to his apartment to drink beer and watch basketball.

"Mr. Dussault was very nice, very friendly," Dent said. At that point, he said, "I had no idea what he was getting around to."

After several beers, though, Dussault propositioned him, Dent said.

"He asked me if I was gay and I said no," Dent testified. "He said he was bisexual and asked if I would give him oral sex."

When he turned Dussault down, Dent said, his host lost his temper. After they drank some more beer, he said, Dussault grabbed at his legs and genitals. Dent said he wrestled with Dussault, fighting off what he called a "sexual assault."

"Why didn't you just leave?" Assistant Public Defender Bruce Johnson asked.

"I wish I would have," Dent said.

Prosecutor Frank Migliore asked sarcastically if Dent was "familiar with the numerals 9-1-1." Dent said he knew the emergency number.

As the men struggled, Dent said he snatched a cord off a nearby toaster to tie up Dussault _ but only to restrain him.

Then, he told jurors, he decided: "I'm going to get you back for doing this." He swiped $36, along with two lottery tickets.

Dussault kept talking, so he gagged the victim with a T-shirt. When he walked out, he said, he left Dussault lying face down, still tied up _ but still breathing.

Later, Dent said, he felt guilty about what he had done and tried to go back to untie Dussault, but found he could not get into the apartment building.

Three days later, when Dussault did not show at work, Dussault's boss looked for him and found him dead. The hogtied man asphyxiated.

Dent said he did not mean to hurt the stranger.

The trial continues at 9 a.m.