Chatsiam Adam Lioy, the 37-year-old Seffner tree-trimmer who raped a woman in her home and stabbed her husband to death, was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole.
About 4 a.m. on Nov. 13, 1996, Javier "Jay" Lopez and his wife were asleep in the master bedroom of their Exposition Drive home in the Fawn Ridge section of Citrus Park when Lioy sneaked in.
Lopez tried unsuccessfully to fend him off with a baseball bat, but Lioy stabbed him to death, sexually assaulted his wife, set the couch on fire and fled.
The case remained unsolved for seven years, until detectives last year matched a DNA sample left at the crime with Lioy's DNA, kept in a Florida Department of Law Enforcement database.
Authorities had taken Lioy's genetic sample during his stay in state prison for a 1998 burglary conviction. Lioy also had prior convictions for robbery and served court-ordered supervision for battery on a law enforcement officer.
After his arrest in October in the Citrus Park attack, Lioy pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, armed burglary, armed kidnapping, arson and three counts of armed sexual battery.
Lioy agreed to a life term; in exchange, Hillsborough prosecutors agreed to withdraw their request for the death penalty.
Before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta imposed the sentence, Lopez's wife stood and faced the man who had raped her and killed her husband. Before he died, she said, her husband cried "Look out! Look out!" to warn her of the intruder in their home.
"I will always hear Jay's final and desperate screams to me," she said, "as he was being viciously slaughtered by this defendant, who cannot even be classified as a human being."
The woman, who is not being named because she is a rape victim, said her husband, born poor into a troubled family in Puerto Rico, had died a hero. "A hero loves his family so much that he is willing to stand between evil to protect his loved ones," she said.
And she told Lioy, "May the humiliation and degradation of the numerous times that you raped me become a constant fear" of being raped himself. "May you truly experience the fear of being powerless."
Leslie Blount, a therapist who counseled the victim after the rape, said the attack had left the woman "crushed as a person," terrified to be home alone or to answer the phone. "She used to say she knew for sure that she was living in hell," Blount said.
Lioy stood alone in the jury box, in handcuffs and an orange jail jumpsuit, listening silently. Finally he asked to address the courtroom, and spoke in a low, throaty voice. He called Lopez a "hero" and referred to the events of Nov. 13, 1996, as a "tragedy."
"I fully accept everything," Lioy said. "In return, I just offer you blessings, and I pray for forgiveness."
Outside the courtroom, Lopez's widow said Lioy's comments meant nothing to her.
"If he's asking for forgiveness, he's asking the wrong person," she said. "I don't forgive."
She expressed frustration with law enforcement's handling of the investigation, saying she dealt with "crude, complacent and ineffective detectives" until Hillsborough sheriff's Detective Harry Hoover took the case.
She is now working toward her bachelor's degree at the University of South Florida in hopes of teaching elementary school. Were the death penalty sure and swift, she said, she would have wanted it for her husband's killer. But "he could be on death row 20 years and he could appeal," making it impossible for her to continue with her life. The life sentence, at least, brought some resolution.
"I decided that would probably be the only way for me to have a life," she said.