Gainesville Slaying Suspect Convicted of Beating His Grandmother
MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) _ A suspect in the slayings of five college students in Gainesville was convicted Wednesday of beating his grandmother.
Edward Lewis Humphrey, 19, had tears in his eyes on hearing the conviction on a reduced charge of battery on a person over age 65.
Sentencing was set for Nov. 8; under state sentencing guidelines, he could receive probation or up to 22 months in prison.
It took six Brevard County jurors about an hour to convict Humphrey of beating his 79-year-old grandmother, Elna Hlavaty, on Aug. 30.
He could have been convicted of the more serious charge of aggravated battery on a person over 65. Conviction on that charge carries a penalty of at least three years in prison without parole.
″Truth is, Ed Humphrey beat his grandmother. I had no qualms with the jury. It is difficult when they have a victim testifying for the defense,″ state attorney Norm Wolfinger said.
Humphrey has been held on $1 million bond. No trial testimony was given about his status as a suspect in the serial slayings in August of five students in Gainesville.
Both his defense attorney J.R. Russo and his older brother George said Humphrey should receive the minimum sentence because he has no prior record.
″In this case, justice was done,″ said George Humphrey, who was thankful that his brother was found guilty of the lesser charge. ″There is a good chance he will get probation.″
″I don’t see any reason he shouldn’t get probation,″ Russo said.
Outside the courtroom, Russo said he thought the prosecution was handled ″in a manner to keep Eddie Humphrey in jail as long as possible because of the state’s interest in him in Gainesville.″
Mrs. Hlavaty, who testified for the defense, was upset by the verdict.
″I am heartbroken that I have a crippled grandson that is being railroaded in hell until they find the Gainesville murderer,″ she said. Humphrey was injured in a car accident.
″I think it is real interesting that you have a victim in the case that is not interested in prosecuting the case but the state attorney’s office is interested in prosecuting,″ she said.
″The verdict shows the state proved its case,″ said Assistant State Attorney Philip Williams.
In closing arguments, Williams had said Humphrey battered his grandmother as if he were in a heavyweight match.
″He wasn’t in a fight with Mike Tyson. He wasn’t in a fight with Muhammad Ali ... he was beating his grandmother,″ Williams said.
Russo, a public defender, argued that the state was ″using its vast resources to try to hammer someone.″
″What are we doing in this courtroom? What is this case all about? The state didn’t put on any clear-cut evidence,″ Russo said.
After the alleged beating Mrs. Hlavaty called police and said her gransdon had hit hurt. She later said she didn’t want to press charges.
Prosecutors have tried to show Mrs. Hlavaty was harmed intentionally and suffered bodily harm, permanent injury or permanent disfigurement.
Mrs. Hlavaty testified Wednesday in her grandson’s defense, saying she hurt herself on Aug. 30, after her grandson returned from Gainesville. She said she lost her balance and fell on a fireplace reaching for a light switch.
Countering this, the arresting officer, Deputy Douglas Hammack, testified that Mrs. Hlavaty identified her grandson as her attacker. She said Humphrey told her she was going to die and go to hell, Hammack testified.
Humphrey is a University of Florida freshman listed by police as a suspect in Gainesville slayings.
Humphrey is also facing unrelated charges of attempted rape and assault.
The alleged attack on his grandmother occurred after the discovery earlier that week of the bodies of four female students and one male student in off- campus apartments.
No one has been charged in those killings.