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Defiant killer gets 35 years in prison

In sentencing after a plea deal, the confessed killer of a 19-year-old sneers and shows no remorse.

By CARRIE JOHNSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 19, 2002


INVERNESS -- As the family of Linda Marie Howes watched tearfully, David Duquette made a final show of bravado Tuesday before he was sentenced to serve a 35-year prison term for bludgeoning Howes to death last year in a Floral City park.

After Circuit Judge Ric A. Howard listed the requirements included in the plea agreement worked out between Duquette's lawyer and the State Attorney's Office, the defendant sneered.

"Why do I have to take anger management classes?" he asked. "I wasn't mad."

If Duquette wanted to shock the victim's family by making a reference to his state of mind the night Howes was killed, he succeeded. Kathleen Howes, Linda Howes' mother, was so upset by Duquette's remark she had to leave the courtroom.

"This family has been through so very much," Joanne Murphy, a friend of Mrs. Howes, said after the hearing. "It seems the absolute least somebody could have done is to say they're sorry. It was just so obvious that (Duquette) doesn't care."

Duquette, 21, agreed this month to accept the plea arrangement rather than stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder. He pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree murder and agreed to serve 10 years of probation and pay restitution to Howes' family for funeral expenses, in addition to his prison sentence.

Assistant State Attorney Don Scaglione accepted the deal after receiving approval from the victim's family and the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

Duquette's lawyer, Charles Vaughn, called the case "tragic."

"You have young people on both sides who have been hurt. That's always sad," he said.

Howes' mother declined to make a statement in court Tuesday, as did the detectives who investigated the case.

Duquette, dressed in a red prison jumpsuit, his hair cropped almost to the scalp, was defiant throughout the brief hearing. He answered the judge's questions with a casual "yep" or "yeah" until Vaughn whispered in his ear and told him to stop.

Duquette's mother, Alma, sat behind her son in the courtroom. She declined to comment when approached by a reporter.

If a trial had gone forward, Duquette would have been largely prosecuted by his own words. He gave a videotaped statement to sheriff's Detective Danny Linhart in which he admitted killing Howes, 19, during consensual sex at Floral City Park.

Duquette said he was using LSD at the time and began hurting Howes after he hallucinated and saw the face of a man who harmed his sister.

"I just started choking her and before I knew it . . . there was no more movement," Duquette said in his statement.

Results from a rape kit were inconclusive, but Scaglione said no seminal fluid was found in Howes' body.

The investigation into Howes' death began Aug. 18 when the popular former Citrus High School student disappeared shortly after attending a party on Waverly Street in the Highlands section of Inverness.

Howes left the party with Duquette and another friend, Ethan Mitchell. Duquette told investigators he took Mitchell home, then dropped Howes off behind her Iona Street home about 4 a.m.

An intense, three-week search for Howes followed. Stores from Crystal River to Wildwood displayed posters of the 5-foot teen who worked as a waiter at J.A. Garfield's.

The search ended the night of Sept. 10 shortly after Duquette broke down in the Sheriff's Office. Detectives stopped by his house about 8 p.m. to check on Duquette, and his mother told them to arrest her son because "he killed her."

Duquette told the detectives he put Howes' body into his truck and took the body to his house, 10825 S Flutter Ter. He also showed them the shallow grave he dug in the Withlacoochee State Forest less than 150 paces behind his house.

The families of both the victim and Duquette suspected he did not act alone that night and expressed frustration that no one else was charged.

In a Sept. 27 letter, Tina Duquette urged her brother to quit protecting his friends and cooperate with authorities.

"You were not by yourself and you are so stupid for covering people's a--," she wrote.

But Scaglione said Duquette maintained from the beginning that he was the only person responsible for the death, and there has been no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved.

"Every statement he has made has shown he did it independently, solely and by himself," Scaglione said. "Why would somebody admit to something so horrendous? It's because he did it."

-- Crime reporter Carrie Johnson can be reached at 860-7309 or cjohnson@sptimes.com.

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