Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe said he expects to seek the death penalty against Marco Antonio Parilla Jr., accused of murdering Tarpon Springs police Officer Charles Kondek this month.
And although he normally leaves trials to his assistants, McCabe said he will be part of the team prosecuting Parilla. During the past 30 years, he has prosecuted everyone accused of murdering law enforcement officers in Pinellas and Pasco counties.
"I've done every one since 1980, and I just think it's something I ought to do," McCabe said in an interview Monday.
He said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett also would be part of the prosecution team.
Meanwhile, Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger said his office is gearing up for the defense, which will be led by Chief Assistant Public Defender John Swisher and Senior Assistant Public Defender Jane Matheny.
In the legal system, this case is in early stages, far too early for McCabe's office to file the formal paperwork that would officially announce its intention to seek the death penalty.
For one thing, the case has not gone to a grand jury. Parilla has not been formally charged with the killing. And like any other defendant, he is innocent until proven guilty.
But McCabe said the fact that Parilla is accused of killing a law enforcement officer, plus his previous criminal record, are factors that would make the death penalty appropriate.
Under Florida law, judges can sentence murderers to death when their crimes involve certain "aggravating circumstances."
Among those circumstances: killings in which the victim is a law enforcement officer on duty, and those in which the killer is a convicted felon on probation.
Parilla has numerous previous offenses, mostly drug crimes, and served a prison sentence. He was on probation at the time of the shooting this month.
The shooting occurred about 2 a.m. Dec. 21, when Kondek arrived at a Tarpon Springs apartment to investigate a noise complaint.
Parilla, 23, shot Kondek, 45, above his bulletproof vest, police said. Parilla sped away but was captured shortly afterward.
Kondek, who was married with six children, was killed four days before Christmas. At his funeral Saturday, his 15-year-old daughter, Aleena, said, "He wasn't afraid to love us more than he loved himself."
Kondek was the first area officer slain in the line of duty since 2011, and the first from the Tarpon Springs department since 1926.
In Pinellas, the most recent prosecution of someone accused of killing an officer was Nicholas Lindsey. He was convicted in 2012 of murdering St. Petersburg Officer David S. Crawford.
Lindsey was 16 at the time of the shooting and not eligible for the death penalty because of his age. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Times staff writer Laura C. Morel contributed to this report. Contact Curtis Krueger at email@example.com or (727) 892-8232. Follow @ckruegertimes.