NEW PORT RICHEY — Qiu "Joe" Ke has told anyone who will listen that he executed his neighbor on Jan. 23, 2018.
He told the first deputies who arrived at the shooting that he shot Edward "Lee" Tudor in his own front yard, as he begged for his life. He told the detectives who questioned him afterward. He told the reporters who visited him in jail. He even tried to plead guilty soon after his arrest, hoping to be immediately sentenced to death.
Then on Wednesday, Qiu explained what he did to the most important people of all: The jury at his murder trial.
Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Bryan Sarabia held up two photos of Tudor's body to Qiu.
"You did this, though, right?" Sarabia asked.
"Yes, I did this," said Qiu, his voice unwavering.
It only took 50 minutes for the jury to find Qiu, 62, guilty of first-degree murder.
The victim's mother, Mary Tudor, softly cried into a tissue as the verdict was read aloud. Her youngest brother, Wayne Tudor, wrapped his arm around her as the two shared a white blanket that lay across their laps. Les Brummer, the victim's cousin, sat on her other side.
Lee Tudor was 37 and working on his bachelor's degree in nursing at Rasmussen College when he died. He was a survivor of stage-four, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
He had graduated with an associate's degree September 2017. He loved to go fishing and scalloping with his mother. The two of them tried to make as many memories after his mother was diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer.
Qiu was the last to testify in his two-day trial. His defense tried to convince the jury to convict him of a lesser charge that didn't carry a life sentence, such as manslaughter. They tried to persuade jurors that the murder was not premeditated — a requirement of first-degree murder — because Qiu bought milk and cat food to feed homeless felines hours before the shooting.
He told the jury that he believed Tudor had been tormenting him for years. He called their neighborhood dispute a "war." However, after the murder, neighbors said they knew nothing about a dispute between the two men.
Qiu said he had constructed a tent above his bed and put blankets on top of it to try to muffle noises he could hear Tudor making. He even put a white noise machines in his room to drown out the sound. A detective testified that he heard one of the devices playing an Imagine Dragons song when he walked into Qiu's room after the murder.
During the state's cross examination, Sarabia read entries from Qiu's journal made leading up to the slaying.
"I am going to fight this to the end and give a lesson to all bullies," Sarabia read outloud. "People like Lee disgust me."
Qiu confirmed it was his writing.
The prosecutor said Qiu wanted to be the hero in his own story, so he had to pin everything on Tudor. Qiu wanted to be seen as a good neighbor, so he had to make Tudor out to be the "boogeyman."
Qiu slowly shook his head no as Sarabia addressed the jury.
"But the reality is this defendant is not the hero," Sarabia said. "He is the murderer."
Qiu quietly accepted a life sentence, thanked the judge and was taken out of the courtroom by bailiffs. He will soon be sent to the state prison system.
As Mary Tudor walked out of the courtroom, surrounded by family members, she said she was relieved that justice had been served.
"Not only did he murder Lee," she said. "He slandered Lee."
Now that the trial is over, the Tudor family plans to go to the beach and look for dolphins.
If they see one, the mother said it will be a sign that her son is saying hello.
Contact Paige Fry at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @paigexfry.