SARASOTA — A jury Tuesday convicted a man of first-degree murder in the grisly stabbing death of art gallery owner Joyce Wishart five years ago.
The jury rejected the defense’s arguments that Elton B. Murphy was not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Jurors deliberated 40 minutes before handing down their verdict at the courthouse downtown.
Murphy’s public defender, Carolyn Schlemmer, said she plans to appeal the verdict.
The slaying took place in a Sarasota art gallery Jan. 16, 2004. Investigators said Murphy stabbed Wishart, 61, more than 20 times while inside her art showroom, then posed her body like that of a woman in a nearby painting.
Murphy cut off her clothing, removed her shoes, then placed them neatly next to her corpse, according to police reports.
At the time of the killing, Murphy lived in a boarding house on Shade Avenue.
Her body was found after friends became worried that she had not been seen for several days.
Her neck and throat sustained “multiple incised wounds.”, according to court documents.
Blood and skin samples found at the crime scene were sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s lab in Tampa.
In the summer of 2004, a lab ran a DNA sample collected at the gallery through its computer database. It matched Murphy, who was in the database because of a previous burglary arrest.
Sarasota police detectives found Murphy at the Harris County, Texas, jail in Houston, serving a one-year sentence for that burglary charge.
Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for Murphy but later changed their minds.
In 2006, a court ruled Murphy incompetent for trial and sent him to a state mental hospital in Chattahoochee to see if his mental capacity could be restored.
in October 2007, Circuit Judge Deno Economou found Murphy mentally fit for trial.