South Florida man gets death sentence for old lady's murder


MIAMI -- A South Florida man was sentenced to death Thursday for fatally stabbing an elderly woman in her Little Havana apartment.

A Miami-Dade judge followed a jury's 7-5 recommendation in sentencing 40-year-old Victor Guzman. The Miami Herald reported that he was convicted last year of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors say Guzman targeted 80-year-old Severina Dolores Fernandez in December 2000 after seeing her fetch a newspaper outside of her home. She was later found naked and stabbed 58 times.

Guzman cut himself during the attack, leaving DNA evidence at the scene. That same DNA turned up two years later in the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Miami Beach.

Guzman was finally linked to both crimes in 2004, when his DNA was entered into a state database for a probation violation.

Prosecutors urged the death penalty because of the "heinous, atrocious and cruel" nature of the crime, but Guzman asked for mercy at his hearing Thursday.

"I have to pay the consequences, but for the past 10 years, I've done good things," Guzman said. "I've helped many families."

Guzman also said that he started a Christian ministry while in jail.

"I don't want to justify myself. I'm willing to pay the consequences. But if granted the opportunity to remain alive, I could be a blessing to many people."

Defense lawyers asked for life in prison. They said Guzman was an alcoholic with a bad upbringing. The attorneys also pointed to the divided jury recommendation, which was only one vote away from a tie.

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