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Jury takes less than an hour to find rapist guilty of murder

William Chad Routenberg argues a point in a pretrial hearing in front of Judge Keith Meyer prior to the start of his trial for the 2011 murder of his girlfriend, 24-year-old Shanessa Lynn Chappie.
William Chad Routenberg argues a point in a pretrial hearing in front of Judge Keith Meyer prior to the start of his trial for the 2011 murder of his girlfriend, 24-year-old Shanessa Lynn Chappie.
Published Feb. 27, 2013

LARGO — William Chad Routenberg spoke like a man who believed he still had a chance.

With a purple pen on his ear and conviction in his voice, he paced the floor as he addressed the court. His unbelted black slacks sagged beneath his waistline. His oversized blue-striped shirt plumed around his torso.

For the last time, Routenberg — representing himself at trial — was telling the jury that in 2011 he had killed 24-year-old Shanessa Lynn Chappie to save his own life. He told them that she had stolen his prescription pills, then attacked him with a knife. He never did explain why, after stabbing her in the neck, he buried her body in the backyard.

"The most important thing that you guys are going to have to consider back there in your deliberation," he told jurors, "is whether or not you believe that the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this wasn't self-defense."

The jury took just 52 minutes to find him guilty of second-degree murder.

As the verdict was read, his head dropped and his eyes closed. He then sat back down and, for a few moments, appeared to glare at the jurors.

Prosecutors Della Connolly and Doug Ellis presented a focused, concise case that illustrated Routenberg's attempts to conceal his crime and the repeated lies he told detectives.

The case Routenberg presented stood in stark contrast.

In both his opening and closing statements, he offered a confusing mess of disjointed arguments and perplexing analogies.

On Tuesday, for instance, he tried to better explain why he lied to investigators.

"Now just to give you a little scenario in life," he told jurors before asking them to imagine they were driving down the road.

"Then the next thing you know, woo-woo-woo," he said, making a siren noise and twirling his finger. "A cop comes pulling up behind you."

If the cop accused you of speeding, wouldn't you disagree even if you knew it was true?

"Whenever you're confronted with law enforcement, would you automatically just admit to doing something wrong unless they actually could prove you had done something wrong?" he said. "So all of this has to be weighed out and considered."

Routenberg, 37, who won't be sentenced for at least a month, may face life in prison, and his criminal history could influence the judge's decision.

In 1990, at the age of 14, he raped an 11-year-old girl at his St. Petersburg middle school. A judge sent him to the Dozier School for Boys. There, Routenberg sexually assaulted a boy in a shower. Before sentencing Routenberg to life in prison in 1995, a judge told him: "You scare me to death."

An appeals court tossed out his life sentence. He was released by 2002, though he remained on probation. He had several run-ins with the law but avoided prison time.

Chappie's father, Robert, wished that Routenberg was eligible for the death penalty, but he was relieved after the verdict.

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Watching his daughter's killer present his own case, he said, was trying. "I'm thinking he's either a genius," Chappie said, "or an idiot."


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