1. Archive

Prosecutors grill man in murder-by-wife case

Why did you order two pizzas?

That was the question prosecutor Doug Crow had for murder defendant Timothy Humphrey on Thursday.

Humphrey had taken the stand to defend himself from charges that he pressured his young wife, Ashley, into murdering a woman he had a grudge against. During direct examination from his defense attorney, Humphrey calmly told jurors that his wife acted on her own and without his help.

On cross examination, Crow asked about the two dozen cell phone calls between Humphrey and his wife around the time of the murder. Humphrey said the calls were an ongoing argument between the two, a quarrel that kept Ashley away from their home all day.

Why, Crow asked, did you order two pizzas right around the time the murder was committed? "So you expected Ashley back?" Crow asked.

Humphrey stammered, as he did during much of Crow's steady questioning. Humphrey tugged at his collar and slouched in his seat as Crow peppered him with questions that seemed to punch holes in his story.

Humphrey said it was merely a coincidence that he and his wife visited a shooting range around the time of the murder. He said he was only protecting her - not him - when he persuaded a friend to provide them a false alibi for the night of the murder. He said he didn't see any clue that his wife intended to kill for him.

Prosecutors say otherwise.

Humphrey married Ashley Humphrey July 4, 2003. He was 36, she was 20. The next day, Sandee Rozzo, a woman who filed a sexual assault complaint against him, was ambushed and shot to death in her Pinellas Park garage.

Police charged the Humphreys with murder, saying she pulled it off at his direction. A few months after her arrest, Ashley Humphrey admitted to police that she killed Rozzo, but said her husband coaxed and pressured her into it.

She promised to testify against him in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence. He could receive a death sentence if convicted. The trial is expected to end today with closing arguments.

Ashley Humphrey took the stand earlier this week and also took some grilling from her husband's defense attorneys. She remained calm and steady, explaining how her husband coached her before the ambush.

She said she called her husband after she shot Rozzo eight times. She said he told her pizzas were on the way to their home in Brandon.

The pizzas, prosecutors say, were to be Timothy Humphrey's alibi. He called Pizza Hut on his cell phone around the time of the murder and paid with a credit card, leaving a paper trail showing he was home at the time of the killing.

Humphrey admitted he tried to send letters to his wife from his jail cell that suggested she lie on the stand, but he offered a reason.

"I didn't ask Ashley to tell the truth because if Ashley tells the truth, the state's not going to give her a deal and she would face the death penalty and I didn't want her to die," said Humphrey, who cried once during his testimony.

"I asked her not to take me down with her because I didn't do this," he added.

Humphrey professed love for his wife in those letters. He also sent letters to two other women from his cell, professing his love for them.