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Woman found guilty of murder

Jurors take just over an hour to convict the woman, who confessed to killing her stepfather in a letter to the state attorney.

As she awaited trial on a charge that she shot her stepfather to death as he slept, Vuzhuan Johnson picked up a piece of paper at the Pinellas County Jail and wrote a letter to the person trying to send her to the electric chair.

"I'm tired of fighting what seems to be a non-winning battle," she said in a letter to Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe.

Later in the letter, Johnson confessed to committing first-degree murder.

On Thursday, jurors decided Johnson did in the letter what she could not do on the witness stand _ tell the truth.

Jurors deliberated for little more than an hour before finding Johnson guilty of first-degree murder for the Aug. 16, 1997, shooting death of her stepfather, Abraham Dowdell, 50.

Prosecutors Rob Dittmer and Joe Bulone told jurors that Johnson, 27, killed Dowdell to steal up to $250 and because he did not approve of her lesbian lifestyle. She lived in the same home as her stepfather at 4650 Eighth Ave. S. in St. Petersburg.

The penalty phase of the trial will be held this afternoon. Jurors will be asked to recommend to Circuit Judge Philip Federico whether Johnson be executed for the murder or spend the rest of her life in prison without possibility of parole.

The judge has the final decision, though he must give the jury's recommendation great weight.

Johnson testified Thursday that she was fearful of receiving the death penalty when she decided after her arrest to confess to a murder she said she did not commit. She confessed in the letter and to detectives, Johnson testified, in hopes that she would receive a lesser sentence.

"I didn't want to be put on death row for this crime," she told jurors. Johnson said a friend who wanted money for cocaine killed Dowdell while she watched helplessly.

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