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Jury recommends life sentence for man convicted in 2010 death of Brooksville woman

Byron Burch was found guilty in June of murdering an 80-year-old woman in her home in May 2010.
Published Aug. 1, 2015

BROOKSVILLE — A jury has recommended a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for a man it previously convicted for brutally killing an 80-year-old woman in her home in May 2010.

Byron Burch, 44, was found guilty in June of murdering Sarah Davis, a south Brooksville matriarch, and burglarizing her home while armed. The only options for sentencing were life in prison or the death penalty.

Davis, a teacher for more than three decades, had hired Burch to do some handy work around her house. The two were distantly related.

Law enforcement officials found Davis the next morning on her bathroom floor, her head beside her bathtub, lying in a pool of blood. Burch, a crack cocaine addict with a long criminal history, had stabbed and slashed her more than 25 times.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours this week before returning their recommendation of a life sentence. It had taken them about 14 hours over three days to convict Burch.

In his closing argument, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino urged the jury to recommend that Burch receive the death penalty, citing Burch's violent past. Burch was convicted of sexually battering his 9-year-old cousin when he was 16. Later, he was convicted of battery on a law enforcement officer, for which he was sentenced to four years in prison.

Magrino also asked the jury to consider the heinousness of the crime.

"The aggravating circumstances that apply with regard to this case are such that death is an appropriate recommendation for you all to make to his honor, Judge (Daniel B.) Merritt Jr.," Magrino said.

Burch's defense lawyer, Terry Lenamon, downplayed the significance of his client's violent past. Lenamon attributed Burch's behavior to a poor upbringing and unresolved mental health issues. Collectively, he said, the mitigating factors outweighed the aggravating factors necessary to sentence Burch to death

"When you start putting these all together and building these all up, what you see here is this mitigation that builds and builds and builds that has great value," Lenamon told the jury.

Burch's daughter was present during closing arguments, but Lenamon said she did not wish to comment.

The next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20. Magrino asked Merritt for time to consider filing a motion requesting that he sentence Burch to death, despite the jury's recommendation. If Magrino does not file the motion, Burch could be sentenced at the hearing.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @josh_solomon15.

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