After a nine-day trial and four hours of deliberation, the 59-year-old man now faces the death penalty.
By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 28, 2002
LARGO -- Pinellas prosecutors portrayed Franklin Delano Floyd as a man with a violent temper who, in a fit of anger, killed a 19-year-old Brandon woman before dumping her body off Interstate 275 in 1989.
Floyd professed his innocence. But late Friday, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder.
After a nine-day trial, jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding Floyd, 59, guilty of the killing of Cheryl Ann Commesso. Floyd faces the death penalty when the sentencing phase of his trial begins on Monday.
Floyd was irate when a clerk announced the verdict. As defense attorney Michael Schwartzberg tried to calm him, Floyd told jurors, "Look me in the face."
Then he pointed to prosecutors and told his attorney, "They framed me." After jurors left, he cussed at Pinellas-Pasco Judge Nancy Moate Ley.
"I hope you sleep good," Floyd told Ley.
"Thank you, Mr. Floyd," she said calmly.
For Commesso's family, the verdict ends 13 years of waiting.
"Justice has been served," said John Commesso, 55, of Valrico, the victim's father. "It took 13 years. We're waiting for one more thing. And that's the death penalty."
No witness saw Franklin Delano Floyd pump two bullets into the victim's head. No confession links him to the crime.
Commesso's skeletal remains were found off Interstate 275 in Pinellas more than six years after she was killed with two shots to the back of the head.
Commesso, a nude dancer, was known simply as "Jane Doe I-275" before she was eventually identified.
But Pinellas prosecutors Bruce Bartlett and Glenn Martin told jurors the best evidence of Floyd's guilt was a series of photos of a bound and blindfolded Commesso. They said Floyd took the pictures shortly before killing her.
The pictures were found wedged over the gas tank of a pickup truck Floyd stole during an unrelated kidnapping in Oklahoma. He is already serving a life sentence after his conviction in that case.
After the kidnapping, the truck was sold and its new owner found the pictures.
The person in the photo is wearing the same clothing as found with the skeleton on I-275. Some jewelry is the same. And the woman in the photo, witnesses said, was definitely Commesso.
In addition, the photographer's thumb can be seen in several photos and is nearly identical to Floyd's.
In addition, the woman in the photos had moles identical to Commesso's, in addition to other similarities.
"Is this a coincidence?" Bartlett said. "Absolutely not."
Schwartzberg said prosecutors can't prove the woman is Commesso and cannot positively link the photos to Floyd.