Jurors weighed the arguments between self-defense and intent to kill.
In the end, they unanimously agreed William Siskos maliciously gunned down his girlfriend's husband during a street confrontation the night of July 9, 2010.
Joe Kasbach, 46, was shot once in the abdomen and died the following day at a Tampa hospital.
The conviction was a long-awaited relief for the victim's friends and family.
Siskos "got what he deserved," said Kasbach's friend Lisa Kerekach moments after the verdict was read.
Siskos, 42, was convicted of second-degree murder and carrying a concealed firearm. He will be sentenced Aug. 2. He faces at least 25 years in prison.
"Joe was one of the nicest guys I've ever known," said Kerekach. "He didn't deserve to die like that."
While seated in the courtroom earlier that morning, Kasbach's sister, Karen Braden, bent down, grabbed part of her dress and dabbed her eyes. She sat next to a row of photos, one of her brother with Kerekach and another of her son and mother. All three have died during the past two years.
Braden sat and listened again to the testimony from Bill Mullins, the man who witnessed her brother's shooting. She listened to Mullins describe the way Siskos and Kasbach sized up each other – and how the argument ended with a gunshot.
Braden, along with jurors, heard the same testimony three days earlier. She cried both times.
Mullins gave his testimony in person Monday afternoon. After deliberating for about two hours late Wednesday, jurors asked to return to the Hernando County courthouse this morning and listen again to Mullins' testimony.
The recording was replayed to them before they resumed deliberating at 10:30 a.m.
They returned with a verdict around 12:15 p.m.
"Somebody needed to speak up for Joe and that's what I tried to do," said Mullins when contacted over the phone Thursday afternoon.
"I don't know why a higher power put me in that position," he said. "I tried to do my best … I told the truth. I told them what I had seen."
Defense attorney Barbara Jo Bell said Siskos, a former prison corrections officer, acted in self-defense.
Mullins said he was talking to Kasbach, who was seated in the driver's seat of his car, along Ligonier Road in Spring Hill. The two had been drinking and playing cards at Mullins' house earlier that night.
Mullins, who was talking to Kasbach through the open passenger-side door, said he noticed Siskos walking toward them and warned Kasbach.
There was palpable tension between the two men because Siskos was carrying on an affair with Kasbach's wife, according to court testimony.
Bell asked Mullins whether he expected to see a fistfight.
"I thought maybe there would be one," he told her.
Mullins said he was shocked when he saw Siskos pull a gun, aim and fire it.
Mullins, who was in a state of fright, said he saw Siskos "wheel around" and point the gun at him, at which time he started running. The street was dark and he was standing close to a tree, which he ran into moments after he whirled around and started running, he said.
Siskos told authorities he saw Kasbach reach below his seat before he got out of his car and confronted him. He also said Kasbach had punched him twice before he pulled the gun.
"Never happened," Mullins said to Bell when she asked him whether she saw Kasbach hit Siskos.
Mullins got emotional a couple times during his testimony. He told a reporter Monday as he was leaving the courthouse that Kasbach "was a terrific guy" who had turned his life around.
He said Thursday the shooting has caused him emotional pain and countless sleepless nights during the past two years.
"There's not a day or night that goes by that I don't think about this," said Mullins.
Siskos' sister also attended the trial. She left the courtroom sobbing and accused Mullins of instigating the fight that led to the shooting.
Siskos was acquitted of a count of aggravated assault with a firearm. That charge was filed by the state attorney's office based on the allegation Mullins made that Siskos had pointed it at him.
Braden, who lives out of state, watched nearly every minute of the trial since jury selection began Monday morning.
"My mother would be so happy," she said after she left the courthouse.
Braden said her family had little money for a funeral. Kasbach was cremated and his mother sprinkled his ashes along a creek bed in Passaic County, N.J. where he was raised.
Braden moved to a different seat in the courtroom after noticing the defendant turn around and make eye contact with her a couple times.
She said it unnerved her.
"I was like, 'Look somewhere else, man. You're on trial,'" Braden said.
"I was angry he was acting like that."