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Murder trial delayed again

Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:25 PM
BROOKSVILLE -

Two mistrials in Sumter County disrupted the scheduling for a 2010 capital murder case in Hernando County.

As a result, the Hernando trial was continued once more.

Byron Burch, 41, is accused of fatally stabbing 80-year-old Sarah Davis in her south Brooksville home and stealing her jewelry. Davis' body was discovered the morning of May 15, 2010.

His trial was supposed to begin Oct. 15, but a continuance was granted by the judge and the case is now scheduled to go before jurors beginning Feb. 4.

"I feel really bad for the (Davis) family," said prosecutor Pete Magrino. "It means they have to wait another three months."

Tricia Jenkins, who represents Burch, also defended Sumter defendant Jack Colbert, who was arrested in connection with a May 28, 2010 fatal shooting in Wildwood.

Colbert's case was declared a mistrial twice before the State Attorney's Office agreed last month to allow the suspect to plead guilty and avoid a third trial. The delayed result meant Jenkins and her defense team didn't have ample time to schedule depositions for DNA specialists related to the Burch trial, according to the State Attorney's Office.

Based on court documents, the state is expected to rely heavily on forensic evidence during the Burch trial. Detectives said Burch had some bloody clothing in his duffel bag when he was arrested. It was the same set of clothes he was wearing when he killed Davis, according to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

Jenkins' phone number listed in on the Florida Bar website has been disconnected. She could not be reached for comment.

Burch is one of three 2010 murder defendants for whom the State Attorney's Office pursued the death penalty.

John Kalisz, 57, was sentenced to death in March after being convicted of killing his sister and her employee the afternoon of Jan. 14, 2010, at his sister's home-based business off Wilhelm Road. Kalisz also had shot and injured two other women at the house, including his 18-year-old pregnant niece.

Steven Wesolek, 22, was convicted in May of fatally stabbing Enrique Acevedo during a June 2010 carjacking along Ayers Road. Jurors in that case opted to recommend a life sentence.

Magrino has said the long list of aggravating factors behind Burch's slaying of Davis makes him a candidate for a death sentence.

Davis felt pity for Burch after she noticed he was going door-to-door to sell food he had picked up at a nearby food pantry. She agreed to hire him to do some landscaping work at her house, authorities said.

Davis had been widowed for about a year and she lived alone. Burch was a distant relative of hers, according to court records.

Burch is accused of killing Davis when she caught him stealing jewelry from her bedroom.

Davis was a retired schoolteacher and had worked part-time at the now-closed sheriff's office substation in south Brooksville.

Last month, a road that intersects the street where Davis lived was renamed in her honor.

Six months prior to Davis' death, Burch was released from prison. An appellate court had overturned his robbery conviction. He was freed after serving barely one-fifth of his original 15-year sentence.

The judge in that case, Jack Springstead, ruled Burch had "insufficient counsel" during his trial and the appellate court agreed. A new trial never took place because the victim, who was homeless, had presumably left the area and couldn't be located, according to court documents.

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