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ACCUSED TELLS JURY HIS SIDE IN STABBING DEATH

Timothy Permenter's testimony nearly lets excluded evidence get back into his trial.
Published Nov. 16, 2007

Timothy Permenter took the stand Saturday to defend himself against a charge that he stabbed girlfriend Karen Pannell to death four years ago in Oldsmar.

But he almost gave prosecutors another shot at introducing evidence against him that defense attorneys succeeded in keeping out of the trial.

During his testimony, Permenter accused Pannell of lying to a sheriff's deputy 10 days before her murder when Permenter came to her house and she called 911.

That led Pinellas Circuit Judge Timothy Peters to order the jury out of the courtroom.

Prosecutors argued that Permenter's comment opened the door for them to introduce details of the incident.

"She told the cop she wanted to break up with him," Assistant State Attorney Bill Loughery said to Peters while the jury was out.

"She found out about his (criminal) record."

Among 16 felonies, Permenter served time in prison for a gunfight in Leon County in 1991. Now the 40-year-old faces the death penalty in the murder of Pannell, a 39-year-old American Airlines employee based at Tampa International Airport.

On Oct. 10, 2003, Pannell was stabbed and cut 16 times in the kitchen of her villa on Montego Court.

Permenter initially told investigators that he left Pannell's house by 7:30 the evening of the murder and that he never returned to her house that night.

Permenter said that at 9:32 that night he used his cell phone to call his roommate, George Solomon, from a spot on U.S. 19. Then he went to New Port Richey to visit Solomon and his girlfriend.

Earlier this week, Solomon testified he met Permenter at a gas station, where Permenter confessed to killing Pannell.

After some discussion Saturday, Loughery agreed not to try to introduce evidence regarding the 911 call Pannell made. Still, he asked a few questions on the topic when the jury returned.

"You know better than anyone else in this courtroom that Karen is not here to defend herself," Loughery said to Permenter.

"I didn't mean to malign her," Permenter said.

"You shut her mouth on Oct. 10, didn't you? "

"No, sir, I did not," Permenter said.

Pinellas County sheriff's detectives built their case against Permenter around his "inconsistency" regarding the time he said he left Pannell's house.

In testimony earlier this week, a Pizza Hut deliveryman said he saw Permenter at Pannell's house close to 9 p.m. Also, a T-Mobile engineer testified that the call Permenter said he made at 9:32 p.m. from U.S. 19 was likely made from near Pannell's house.

The call bounced off a cell phone tower about a mile from her home.

On Saturday, Senior Assistant Public Defender Dudley Clapp questioned Permenter about the alleged confession to Solomon.

"When you got there, what did you say?" Clapp asked.

"I didn't say anything, other than, 'Let's go,'" Permenter responded.

Regarding the inconsistencies with the times he initially gave, Permenter said he does not wear a watch. He was mistaken, he said, when he told detectives that he got to Pannell's house at 7 p.m. and left by 7:30 p.m.

Having looked at records, he said, he now realizes he got there later and left later.

On the stand, Permenter said he made the call at 9:32 p.m. to Solomon not when he was on U.S. 19, but when he was leaving Pannell's house.

"I've been off on times," Permenter told Loughery. "Does that make me a murderer? No, sir."

"Isn't it true when you called George you were looking for an alibi?" Loughery asked.

"No, sir," Permenter said.

Loughery also confronted Permenter about details of the body he said he saw after walking only a few steps into the house the next day.

Soon after Permenter found the body, he called one of Pannell's colleagues. He told her Pannell had either been shot or stabbed.

Loughery showed the jury a crime scene that showed Permenter could not have seen the details he said he saw from where he said he was standing.

"You can't see her upper body, can you?" Loughery asked?

"Mr. Loughery," Permenter said. "I know what I saw."