(ran PS edition of PASCO TIMES)
The defendant was recorded saying that he would put a gun "to your mouth, I'll put it to your ear. I promise you."
It was a detective, not the victim or defendant, who first burst into tears Friday afternoon when a court clerk stood and announced the jury's verdict:
Inverness bail bondsman Larry Lund was guilty of conspiring to kill his ex-girlfriend, Robin Abrahamson, the woman he persuaded to act as surrogate mother for a child who was never born.
Lund's face flushed red, but in the back row of the gallery, Citrus County Sheriff's Detective Jackie Howerton cried. The tears, she said later, were "for the fear these ladies had, because he would have killed these ladies."
She was referring to Abrahamson, but also to Debra Lund, who several times had sought injunctions against her husband as they endured a divorce process that was finalized this summer while Lund, 44, was jailed.
The work of Howerton, prosecutors said, was crucial to ensuring Lund is no longer free to threaten Abrahamson or Debra Lund, and the reason he now faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.
When Howerton first learned that Abrahamson was afraid for her life, that Lund had held her hostage when she tried to leave him, that he had threatened to kill her, the detective encouraged Abrahamson to record her conversations with Lund.
In one, which jurors heard this week, Lund's voice escalated from hurt feelings to rage. Referring to his gun, Lund told Abrahamson, "I'll put it to your mouth, I'll put it to your ear. I promise you."
Prosecutor Paul Norville said after the verdict the same thing he had told jurors. "How could anybody listen to that tape and not think he's guilty?" he said. "I've been a prosecutor for 12 years, and I've never heard anything like that tape."
Jurors began deliberations Friday, after listening to three days of testimony that did not conclude until Thursday evening. Even with a night to sleep on it, Jurors needed more than five hours to convict Lund on the conspiracy charge and two others, false imprisonment of Abrahamson and filing a false auto theft report. Lund was acquitted of a fourth charge, battery against Abrahamson.
During the trial, defense attorney Paul Hawkes tried to use the testimony of state witness Ben Frisbie to undercut the prosecution, which argued that Lund had tried to hire Frisbie in February to either vandalize Abrahamson's home in Kissimmee for a few hundred dollars, or kill her for nearly $11,000.
Frisbie testified that Lund had offered him the money and that he spent several days driving back and forth from Citrus County to Kissimmee, but that he never intended to hurt Abrahamson, now 34. Hawkes hoped Frisbie's account of the events would convince jurors there was no conspiracy.
"This is not a murder case," Hawkes told a reporter more than once as he waited during the deliberations.
When jurors asked to listen again to the taped phone calls, Hawkes worried the evidence would hurt his client. He said before the trial that the tape was irrelevant, since it was made weeks before Lund met with Frisbie. Hawkes said he will file an appeal on behalf of Lund, but that he will not represent him further in the appeals process.
Abrahamson was working for the bail bonds company Larry and Debra Lund owned when she agreed to give birth to the couple's child through in vitro fertilization. Eventually she began dating Larry Lund and the Lunds separated. Abrahamson, who suffered two miscarriages, said Lund repeatedly beat her and once held her hostage in his Inverness home. She eventually moved to Kissimmee.
After the trial Friday, Abrahamson said, "If he wasn't convicted, I'd be dead." Then she turned to embrace Debra Lund.
Sentencing is set for Aug. 26.