A man who has sat on death row for nearly a decade for the murder of a 94-year-old woman was sentenced to death Thursday for a second time, after the Florida Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for a resentencing.
John Sexton 59, received a death sentence in 2013 from Pasco County Judge Mary Handsel for killing 94-year-old Ann Parlato in a crime then-Pasco County Sheriff Bob White said was “pure evil and one of the worst his team had ever seen.”
Handsel delivered the death sentence again Thursday.
The jury’s vote in 2013 was not unanimous — they voted 10-2 to recommend a death sentence. A 2017 ruling from the Florida Supreme Court was cited as the reason to send the case back for a new penalty phase. The opinion did affirm Sexton’s conviction.
Sexton, 59, waived his right to a jury in the new penalty phase, moving the case to a bench trial.
Terence Lenamon, Sexton’s attorney, said he believed Sexton was going to allow a jury to vote on his new sentence. But Sexton changed his mind in the final weeks. Lenamon said that decision made it more likely he would be sentenced to death a second time, since only the judge would decide on a verdict without a unanimous jury vote.
“I was pretty confident she was going to give him death,” Lenamon said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times
Prosecutors revisited evidence and witnesses used in the original case, Lenamon said, including the medical examiner, the lead detective and the woman who found Parlato’s body after the murder.
Lenamon called Sexton’s family members as witnesses to speak about his character to try to get the sentence lessened to life. Lenamon said Sexton says he is innocent.
Handsel ruled the cruel nature of the crime was too great to lessen the punishment.
“It was a pretty horrific crime,” Lenamon said.
Sexton began cutting Parlato’s lawn in the summer of 2010. At about midnight on Sept. 22 of that year, Parlato’s neighbors heard a boom coming from her house, according to court records. Three men next door went outside to see what caused the noise and saw Sexton’s truck in the driveway. They also saw a man through the window they identified as Sexton who seemed to be washing dishes in Parlato’s kitchen sink.
They didn’t think much of it, court documents state. Parlato was a “night owl,” the neighbors said, according to court documents. But they wrote down the truck’s license plate number.
The next day, a friend entered Parlato’s house and found her body on the floor of the living room.
Her face had been bludgeoned so forcefully it was unrecognizable, court records state. Her naked body was covered in a white sheet. Chopped-off body parts lay next to her. Her thighs and genitals were burned. A knife was found next to her body.
Several hours after Parlato’s body was found, detectives went to Sexton’s house. He wore a gray T-shirt and khaki shorts that appeared to have blood on them, according to court documents. Sexton had a cut on his right knuckle. He said it was from a razor blade.
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Sexton was indicted on first-degree murder charges and found guilty in April 2013. He was sentenced to death in December 2013.
“This murder was indeed a helpless, pitiless crime,” Handsel said from the bench in 2013.
In 2013, Sexton told the Times from prison that he wanted a death sentence because he knew appeals would move more quickly than if he received a life sentence. He said he knew someone could sit on death row for decades before being executed.
Lenamon said Sexton plans to appeal the sentence again.