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Death sentence cut to life in slaying of Dunedin woman

Three juries had recommended capital punishment for a man convicted of first-degree murder. A circuit judge did not agree.

Published June 24, 2003

LARGO - Over the past seven years, several juries recommended that David Charles Carpenter be put to death for the killing of a Dunedin woman.

On Monday, Carpenter found someone who doesn't think he deserves the death penalty.

Carpenter was sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole by a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge who overrode a jury's recommendation that he die for the strangulation of Ann Powell, 63.

Judge Dee Anna Farnell sentenced Carpenter to life, in part, because she didn't think prosecutors proved Carpenter was more responsible for the 1994 killing than a friend who also participated.

That friend, Neilan Pailing, is serving a 25-year prison sentence after he previously pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge.

"There was no credible physical evidence presented to exclude the possibility that (Carpenter) may have had a lesser role in the actual murder," the judge's sentencing order said.

Farnell also noted the "underwhelming" death recommendation by the jury, which split 7-5 in favor of death after his trial ended in March.

Carpenter, 41, who lived in Dunedin, displayed no emotion as the judge pronounced sentence. Asked by Farnell if he had anything to say, Carpenter responded, "I didn't do it."

A jury first convicted Carpenter of first-degree murder in 1996 and then recommended 7-5 that a judge impose the death penalty. Judge Tim Peters followed the recommendation.

But there was a flaw in the first jury's instructions, so Peters set aside his own death sentence and ordered a second jury empaneled to reconsider the sentencing recommendation. That second jury recommended by a 10-2 vote that Peters impose the death penalty, which he did.

Then,in 2001, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction and ordered a second trial. The court said jurors were improperly prevented at the first trial of hearing testimony from two informants.

Their testimony, defense attorneys said, helped Carpenter place more of the blame for the killing on Pailing.

Carpenter met Powell at a coin laundry and invited her to his home Nov. 23, 1994, promising her dinner and dancing. He also invited Pailing, a teenage neighbor.

"David Carpenter had decided it was time for Neil to have a woman," prosecutor Kendall Davidson said at Carpenter's first trial. "Ann didn't know about this plan, and didn't go along with this plan."

She was raped, Davidson said, and was beaten and strangled with her own bra. Pailing put the body in the trunk of Powell's car and drove it to the Pinellas Trail. He tried to burn it, but the fire went out. When Carpenter saw a television report about police finding the car, he called them to explain why his fingerprints might be on it.

Each defendant accused the other of killing Powell, but prosecutors believed the older, heavier Carpenter dominated Pailing, now 26.

After sentencing, Carpenter had one request for the judge.

He wants to get married to a British woman he first met during a jail visit.

The judge refused to grant permission, saying she chose not to become involved in a civil matter unrelated to the criminal case.

[Last modified June 24, 2003, 01:47:56]

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