Steven Lorenzo berated by murder victims’ mothers in Tampa courtroom: ‘You should be dead’

The mothers of Jason Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz asked a judge to give Lorenzo the death penalty for the murders of their sons.
Attorney Brian Gonzalez, left, listens as defendant Steven Lorenzo, center, who is representing himself, speaks during his penalty hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa on Monday.
Attorney Brian Gonzalez, left, listens as defendant Steven Lorenzo, center, who is representing himself, speaks during his penalty hearing at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa on Monday. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 7, 2023|Updated Feb. 10, 2023

TAMPA — The mothers of Jason Galehouse and Michael Wachholtz journeyed Tuesday to a Tampa courtroom and berated the man who killed their sons.

“You’re the dirt underneath my fingernails,” Galehouse’s mother, Pam Williams, told Steven Lorenzo. “And you do not deserve to be living today and even tomorrow. You should be dead already.”

“He should no longer breathe,” Ruth Wachholtz told a judge. “My son doesn’t, so why should he? He is lower than a snake that crawls on the ground, and if found, it should get its head chopped off.”

The women — each trekking to the witness stand with a cane — testified in the penalty hearing for Lorenzo, who pleaded guilty in December to two counts of first-degree murder.

Jason Galehouse
Jason Galehouse [ Tampa Police Department ]
Michael Wachholtz
Michael Wachholtz [ COURTESY PHOTO | courtesy photo ]

Galehouse and Wachholtz, who vanished within a day of each other in December 2003, were sexually tortured in Lorenzo’s Seminole Heights home before they were killed. Lorenzo is already serving a 200-year federal sentence related to their deaths and the sexual assaults of several other men.

The mothers lamented the case’s two-decade legal odyssey, imploring Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella to impose the harshest penalty available under Florida law.

“For 20 years, he has breathed and lived, at taxpayer’s expense no less,” Ruth Wachholtz said. “And Michael hasn’t. It’s time to end this.”

Related: 'Let's violate the world.' State seeks death for Steven Lorenzo in 2 Tampa murders

Williams, whose son’s body Lorenzo dismembered and which was never found, mentioned that she does not have a grave to visit to remember him.

As she verbally disparaged him, Lorenzo, seated at a defense table, smirked and raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah, that’s right, make a face, you creep,” Williams said. “You are a sick person. And I wish to God that somebody would cut you up in pieces because that’s what you deserve.”

The penalty hearing, which spanned two days, showcased an unusual form of jurisprudence. Unlike most death penalty trials, there was no jury to hear the case. And unlike most death penalty defendants, Lorenzo embraced what is likely to be his sentence, putting up little effort to save his life.

Representing himself, he asserted that capital punishment would enhance his quality of life in prison, and he likened an eventual execution to a kind of euthanasia.

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He seemed more interested in trying to correct what he said were inaccuracies in the state’s version of the crimes. In a 147-page document filed weeks before the hearing began, Lorenzo went into detail about how he claimed the killings occurred.

He seemed to minimize his own involvement, casting blame on his co-defendant, Scott Schweickert, and, in the case of Galehouse, two other unnamed men he said were present. With Wachholtz, Lorenzo’s account made his death sound akin to an accident.

Related: 19 years later, Steven Lorenzo admits to 2 Tampa murders

Seldom speechless in court, Lorenzo chose to remain silent when Assistant State Attorney Justin Diaz attempted Tuesday to cross-examine him about his claims. In response to the prosecutor’s questions, he repeated: “I’m not going to answer that.”

The state’s evidence, and Schweickert’s testimony, in particular, seemed to blunt Lorenzo’s written narrative.

For more than an hour Monday afternoon, Schweickert described a horrifying scheme he and Lorenzo discussed in online chats to kidnap, sexually assault, enslave and kill men.

Scott Schweickert testifies Monday during Steven Lorenzo’s penalty hearing in Tampa.
Scott Schweickert testifies Monday during Steven Lorenzo’s penalty hearing in Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

At one point, Schweickert was asked if there was significance to the fact that they murdered Galehouse and Wachholtz shortly before Christmas. They had discussed “taking an individual” before the holiday, he said, because the thought of the person being unable to be with their family on Christmas gave them a thrill.

Other witnesses included two men who recounted being sexually assaulted by Lorenzo in the years before the killings. Both spoke of meeting Lorenzo in the same Tampa bar and going to his home, where he gave them glasses of wine. Both said they noticed the drink tasted funny before they became disoriented, felt ill and lost consciousness.

One man described waking up facedown with duct tape over his eyes and mouth — his arms, legs and genitals bound with rope. He said Lorenzo took off the tape.

“I just recall his face,” he said. “Nothing behind his eyes.”

He panicked and pleaded, which he said seemed to excite Lorenzo.

“He said he’d made other people disappear,” he said. “He said that several times.”

Prosecutors also read transcripts from Lorenzo’s federal trial of testimony from five other men who told similar stories.

Federal drug enforcement agents investigated Lorenzo in the early 2000s amid an effort to identify people who were ordering GHB, a date-rape drug, on the internet. He drew closer scrutiny from Tampa police after Galehouse and Wachholtz disappeared.

When investigators executed a search warrant at his home, they found a trove of items, including printouts of his chats with Schweickert, articles about missing gay men and books about serial killers.

They also found explicit photographs on a camera that belonged to Lorenzo. Some of the images, which were shown in court, appeared to show Wachholtz lying naked and unconscious on Lorenzo’s living room floor as someone loomed above him.

The judge set a final sentencing hearing for later this month.