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I killed for love, woman testifies

In six hours on the witness stand Monday, Ashley Humphrey's lips quivered a few times. She choked up once while describing how she shot a woman eight times.

Considering she was testifying against her husband in a murder trial, she remained remarkably calm.

She tried to avert her eyes from the defense table and her husband, Timothy Humphrey. She told jurors how her husband pressured her into killing for him, how she feared losing his love if she didn't follow his commands.

At the time, she was 20 and he was 36.

"Why did you kill another human being?" prosecutor Fred Schaub asked.

She responded: "Because I thought it was the only way to stay with the person I loved forever."

Ashley Humphrey admitted from the stand that she shot Sandee Rozzo in Pinellas Park on July 5, 2003. Rozzo was a former friend of Timothy Humphrey's who had accused him of sexual assault. He could have received 10 years in prison if convicted of that crime.

In exchange for her testimony, Ashley Humphrey agreed to accept a 25-year prison sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against her husband, saying he hatched the plan to kill Rozzo, then manipulated his young bride into doing it.

Timothy Humphrey fidgeted with his glasses and glanced down when his wife took the stand Monday morning. He appeared at one point to cry.

Ashley apologized for being nervous, but otherwise was even-keeled on the stand, even when she was asked to point out her husband.

"He's right there," she said, "he's wearing a dark gray blazer."

Ashley, a former high school honors student, testified that she met Timothy Humphrey at a Brandon gym, where he gave her free training sessions. They soon started dating.

Timothy Humphrey was a charmer and a liar, prosecutors say. He told women he had played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had starred in a Rose Bowl, modeled underwear and was a boxing champion.

"He said his hands were registered as lethal weapons," Ashley testified.

All that was untrue, but young and impressionable Ashley believed him. She didn't know he was a convicted felon with a history of beating women.

Though the relationship was fraught with jealousy and fighting, Ashley moved in with Humphrey a few months later. He talked often about Rozzo.

"He said he would never go back (to prison), he would kill himself or go on the run," Ashley said.

She testified that Humphrey's plans soon grew more villainous. Ashley said Humphrey asked her to find out where Rozzo lived and worked. One day they sat outside the bar where Rozzo worked - the Green Iguana on the Courtney Campbell Parkway - and watched her leave.

Soon, Humphrey had Ashley stake her out and follow her home, Ashley said.

Then, after a fight in which Humphrey threatened to kick her out, Ashley finally volunteered to take care of his problem, she said.

"If you let me stay with you, I'll kill Sandra for you," she said, according to her testimony.

Ashley said he asked her to get a gun, so she stole a rifle from her family's home. Humphrey cleaned the gun, taught her how to fire it and sent her to a shooting range to practice, Ashley said.

She said Humphrey threatened her.

"He said I was procrastinating . . . and if I didn't do this, if I wasn't serious, I would be out. I loved him very much, and I didn't want to lose him," she said.

She said Humphrey told her to shoot Rozzo with the rifle outside the bar.

On May 31, 2003, Ashley pulled her Volkswagen Beetle by the bar and waited until Rozzo exited. Ashley said she fired but missed, hitting the Beetle's side mirror instead. Rozzo heard the shot, but didn't realize what it was.

Ashley called Humphrey, who was furious and told her: "Just because you failed doesn't mean your responsibility is done," she said.

At his command, Ashley said, she ditched the gun in the woods, then burned her beloved Beetle and reported it stolen.

She convinced her mother's boyfriend that someone had threatened her and got him to lend her a handgun. Ashley said Humphrey again told her to shoot Rozzo outside the bar.

The day before the planned hit, Ashley and Humphrey had a marriage certificate signed by a notary. They now were married.

"He had some idea that we wouldn't be allowed to testify against each other if we were arrested," Ashley said.

(Though Ashley could not testify about some conversations with her husband, she could testify to conversations they had prior to their marriage, when she said much of the plotting was done).

Ashley staked out Rozzo, then followed her home to Pinellas Park. She considered calling off the hit.

"I thought of the consequences of not doing it, that we wouldn't be together anymore," she said.

She shot Rozzo eight times, killing her.

Timothy Humphrey remained at his Brandon home, but cell phone records show the pair talked about two dozen times during the stakeout and ambush. Ashley said her husband was coaching her.

Police quickly came to suspect the pair. With the cell phone records and other evidence, both Humphreys were charged with murder. Months later, Ashley struck her deal.

Timothy Humphrey's attorneys say Ashley killed Rozzo on her own. While prosecutors have portrayed Ashley as a lovesick pushover, his attorneys have cast her as an calculating killer.

Said Ashley: "I take complete responsibility for what I did, but none of this would have happened if I didn't meet him."

Testimony is expected to continue today.