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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

Killer avoids capital case

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:14 PM

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A death sentence has loomed over Craig Aaron Lede since his arrest nine months ago.

He was accused of fatally beating a man and his girlfriend with a baseball bat in his living room.

The state attorney's office, after discussing the matter with the victims' families and investigators, agreed to accept the defendant's request to plead guilty and take the death penalty off the table.

In exchange, Lede, 41, will serve consecutive life terms, said prosecutor Richard Buxman.

"After consulting with everyone, this was the best decision," he said.

The defendant will formally enter his plea during an Aug. 22 hearing before Circuit Judge Daniel Merritt Sr.

Lede was visited Dec. 2, 2011, by the Hernando County Sheriff's Office after the parents of John Ketsemidis reported their son missing.

Ketsemidis was wearing a global positioning device around his ankle and the signal was coming from Lede's garage at 4272 Gondolier Road in Spring Hill.

A deputy smelled a foul odor coming from inside the house after Lede answered his door, according to sheriff's reports.

The deputy entered the house and looked into the garage, where he found Ketsemidis' body wrapped in a blanket, authorities said.

Lede was arrested and the home was searched. Ketsemedis' BMW sedan was parked in Lede's garage. When deputies opened the trunk, they found the body of Ketsemidis' girlfriend, Dana Nelson, according to court records.

Both Ketsemidis, 29, and Nelson, 28, were bludgeoned.

Moments after his arrest, Lede told deputies the victims were slain during a fight with drug dealers. During his interview, his story changed and he admitted to killing them both, according to the sheriff's office.

Lede had taken a photograph of Ketsemidis' corpse because he wanted a "trophy," detectives said. The photo, along with an image of Nelson's body, was still on the suspect's digital camera when deputies searched the home, they said.

Detectives said Lede knew Ketsemidis and Nelson through their drug connections. All three of them got their prescription pills from a Spring Hill pain management clinic, which was shut down by the sheriff's office one month before the slayings, according to news and investigative reports.

Lede killed Ketsemidis and Nelson over a drug debt, authorities said.

Ketsemidis' parents grew worried about their son after Lede knocked on their door and woke them up shortly before 1 a.m. on Dec. 2, according to the sheriff's office.

Lede, who was driving Ketsemidis' car, asked the couple for $40. He said their son was in the hospital and he needed the money to help pay for his medical expenses, deputies said.

The couple refused to give him money and Lede left. They frantically called local hospitals before contacting the sheriff's office to report their son missing, according to reports. (352) 544-5283

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