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Hefty punishments, delayed trials mark 2004

When he sentenced convicted killer George "Jimmy" Goughf in January, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Michael Andrews didn't mince words.

"If you are so devoid of feeling toward your fellow man . . . ," Andrews said, "it seems to me you have forfeited your right to live among your fellow man."

Goughf received four consecutive life sentences and 15 years for his part in the June 28, 2001, carjacking, kidnapping and assault of cabdriver Martyn Paladino. In March, he received another life sentence for the subsequent murder of Robert Hay.

His sentences were among the harshest in a year full of severe punishments. In west Pasco County courts, 2004 marked the end of freedom for many of the area's most violent criminals.

Early in the year, Goughf's partner-in-crime, Richard Matthew Touchton, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the slaying of Hay. Goughf, Touchton and Edwin Humphrey killed Hay on June 29, 2001, after Hay threatened to tell police how all four men had kidnapped and robbed a cabdriver in Hudson.

Juries decided other men's fates. They found Stephen Allen Anderson guilty of murdering Steven "Crash" Manning in a patch of woods near State Road 52 and Hays Road on Oct. 7, 2001. Also found guilty of first-degree murder were Gary Evers for the June 2001 shooting of Todd Kammers and Kenneth Wayne Gregory for strangling his girlfriend, Dawn Robinson, in February 2003.

All three men received life in prison with no parole.

Another threesome was handed hefty sentences for the killing of 67-year-old Josephine Nuvolone in her Port Richey condominium. Prosecutors said David James Elkin, his 33-year-old mother, Jolene Elkin, and 19-year-old Gary Lee Farrington forced their way into Nuvolone's home in search of money and a prescription painkiller.

In the process, Farrington choked the woman to death. All three were charged with murder. David Elkin, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Both Jolene Elkin and Farrington were convicted of first-degree murder and received life sentences.

The Florida Supreme Court upheld a jury's conviction and recommendation of the death penalty for Oscar Ray Bolin Jr., who seven times had been convicted of murder and six times got the verdicts overturned. Bolin was found guilty of killing Teri Lynn Matthews in 1986. Though the seventh conviction has been upheld, Bolin can still seek postconviction relief.

The state's highest court, however, did not approve the suggested penalty for Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge John Renke III, who admitted in April to misleading voters during his 2002 campaign. The Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended a one-month suspension, a $20,000 fine and a public reprimand for misstating his qualifications during his successful bid for a circuit judgeship.

The state Supreme Court rejected the punishment in July; the JQC has not issued a new recommendation.

Most notable in east Pasco's courts this year was what didn't happen: murder trials.

A Land O'Lakes mother accused of killing her child in what authorities call a failed murder/suicide plot didn't go to trial as the case passed the five-year mark.

A pair of men charged with murder in the abduction, rape and stabbing of a 9-year-old girl didn't go to trial, as the case passed the seven-year mark. A teenager accused with killing a sheriff's deputy in 2003 didn't go to trial, even though his attorney at first pushed for a speedy trial.

Time and again the biggest cases in east and central Pasco ran into legal roadblocks and delays. Two of them, the charge against Kristina Gaime, 40, in her son's death and the case of Alfredie Steele, 20, accused of killing Pasco County Sheriff's Office Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison, wound up in appeals courts with no foreseeable end to the stalemate.

And Gary Steven Cannon, 24, and Gary Elishi Cochran, 39, accused of killing 9-year-old Sharra Ferger in 1997, have a myriad of pretrial motions still unheard _ or even scheduled _ and no realistic time for their trials.

Ten murder suspects were awaiting trial in east Pasco courts as 2004 came to a close.

Despite the backlog piling up in criminal court presiding Judge Lynn Tepper's courtroom, the sole case of violent death to go to a jury was the manslaughter case of a former Zephyrhills Correctional Institution psychologist. Thomas Henry Straight, 64, was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison, found guilty of killing his 36-year-old housemate with a shotgun. That case was tried before Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb, not Tepper.

Another case, the first-degree murder charge against homeless man Gene Paul Forcier, 29, was resolved in July when Forcier pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and got a 30-year prison sentence. Another man, Garth Peter Kelly, 50, pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Aula Matthew Penix, 22, on March 27, 2003.

Not to say that Tepper's 2004 rule was uneventful. In April, the judge threw out much of the evidence collected against Gaime, including an apparent suicide note, ruling deputies overstepped the boundaries of a search warrant. The state has appealed, and no date for a hearing in appeals court has been set yet.

Also in April, a higher court recommended Steele's case to the state Supreme Court for procedural review. That court hasn't held a hearing yet, and a ruling typically takes months after a hearing.

Ahead for 2005 is the potential for a string of murder trials.

In west Pasco, the new year could bring resolution in the cases against Phillup Partin, who was indicted in the slaying of 16-year-old Joshan Ashbrook; and Joshua Engel, accused of stabbing to death his aunt and grandmother.

Also awaiting trial are Harvey Gene Davis Jr., indicted for first-degree murder in the death of New Port Richey police dispatcher Debbie Fossett; and Phillip Patrick Kramer, who authorities allege beat his 80-year-old neighbor, John Page, to death.

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