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For violent night, man gets life

Edwin Howard Humphrey's hands and feet were shackled and a thick metal chain wrapped around his waist. He stood before Circuit Judge Michael Andrews in a red jumpsuit.

"I didn't really want to come here today but I felt that I needed to see this," Kirk Neal said.

From his seat in the galley, Neal recalled Humphrey as he was in the early morning hours of June 29, 2001.

Neal, who was in the middle of a divorce, had decided to stay at Martyn Paladino's house that night. Around 4:30 a.m., he was fast asleep on the couch when Paladino burst through the door with four men in tow. Paladino's head was so bloody Neal thought he had been stabbed.

For the next 90 minutes, Humphrey, Robert Hay, George Goughf and Richard Matthew Touchton terrorized Neal and Paladino, according to police reports. Neal remembers Humphrey waving a pistol and ransacking the house.

As dawn neared, Humphrey marched Neal and Paladino into the bathroom. He stood on Neal's neck as Hay trained a shotgun at his head. Neal remembers the barrel pressed against his chin as Humphrey screamed to Hay, "Blast him! Blast him!"

Goughf stood watch outside and called them off once he saw the neighbor's light on, Neal said.

"It was the worst night of my life," Neal said. "And then when I realized I wasn't going to be killed, it was the best night of my life."

On Tuesday, Humphrey pleaded guilty to kidnapping, carjacking, robbery and assault charges for his role on that night. He received a sentence of life without parole.

Paladino was in the hospital and could not attend the sentencing, Neal said.

Humphrey, 23, is serving another life without parole sentence for a motel robbery he committed earlier the same week. In January, he will stand trial for the June 27, 2001 murder of Hay, also his co-conspirator in the motel robbery.

The foursome carjacked Paladino, a cab driver, after he had gone to Hicks Road in Hudson to pick up a fare. Paladino had pleaded with them, saying there were prescriptions drugs at his house. They beat him until he passed out and stuffed him into the trunk of his car.

Humphrey was arrested the next night after a police chase that ended when he drove his van into a pond. Authorities said he was carrying a variety of drugs and tried eating 50 pills and a bag of marijuana, Ziploc and all. He was taken to the hospital to have his stomach pumped and remained in the medical ward at the Pasco County Jail until July 5.

His attorney, Liz Hittos, argued that Humphrey still hadn't recovered when he confessed to Pasco Sheriff's Detective Leonard Longo, Jr. around midnight on July 4, 2001.

When a motion to suppress the confession failed, Humphrey agreed to plea.

"He has absolutely no conscience," Neal said Tuesday. "He's an animal."