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Judge tells woman people 'might have understood' if she had shot husband instead of in-laws

Marisol Best cries as Judge Michelle Sisco gives her two life sentences Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 in the 2015 murders of her in-laws in their Riverview home. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
Marisol Best cries as Judge Michelle Sisco gives her two life sentences Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018 in the 2015 murders of her in-laws in their Riverview home. JAMES BORCHUCK | Times
Published Aug. 29, 2018

TAMPA — A judge said it was "misguided loyalty" that led Marisol Best to murder her in-laws in 2015.

The loyalty was to her husband, Robert Best, a man whose repeated lifelong brushes with the law, and propensity for lies and manipulation, made his own parents disparage him.

Marisol Best fell victim to him as well, family members said. She killed Virgil and Shirley Best because of the things they said about her husband.

For that, a judge gave Best the only possible sentence: two life terms without the possibility of parole.

"I'm sad for everyone involved in this case," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco told the defendant. "And I'm sad for you."

The judge noted the horror of Best's crimes, and how they sprang from a misplaced allegiance.

"If you had actually shot Robert Best, people might have understood," Sisco said. "But that's not what happened."

Best, 33, was found guilty earlier this month of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of her in-laws. She shot the couple as they bowed their heads in prayer in their Riverview home the night of Nov. 11, 2015.

BACKGROUND: Woman accused of killing in-laws said they weren't supportive

Robert Best reported finding them dead the next morning. He and his wife were there for a prayer meeting before he was scheduled to go on trial in Polk County on charges that he engaged in sex acts with a teenage girl.

It was the latest in a lifelong string of run-ins with the law, which made Robert Best the bane of his family. He had done prison time for various cons. In the 1990s, he romanced a blind North Carolina woman, writing her letters from his prison cell. He eventually persuaded her to send him $1 million, which he then used to buy homes, cars and other items.

That episode netted Robert Best more prison time. He got out and married the former Marisol De La Cruz in 2008. She was 23 at the time. He was 42. They had two children.

Her parents tried to warn her about him, their daughter said in court, telling her to take the kids and leave.

The night of the murders, Marisol Best visited the home for a prayer meeting. The couple made negative remarks about their son's upcoming trial, investigators learned.

During their prayer, Marisol Best drew a gun and shot them both.

While the initial investigation focused on Robert Best, he was never charged in connection to the crime. Marisol Best later confessed to the crime.

At his wife's sentencing, his sister derided the husband.

"He is no longer a brother," Stephanie Knapp said. "He is no longer a cousin. And he is no longer a part of this family. Sadly, she fell victim to him as well."

But Knapp said Marisol Best also made her own choices.

"I am a believer that everything happens for a reason and that God has a plan for us all," Knapp said. "I also believe that there is pure evil in this world. I believe that to do what she did on that night, Nov. 11, is pure evil."

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Best declined to address the courtroom. She sat quietly throughout the 25-minute hearing, her dark brown hair in a bun, dabbing occasionally at her face.

"As she spends the rest of her life behind bars," Knapp said, "I hope that when she closes her eyes that she sees my mother and father."

Contact Dan Sullivan at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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