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Suspect guilty of Big Lots murder

The jury must decide if the man should get the death penalty.

Published July 28, 2005

LARGO - John Cardoso's family waited four years for an arrest in his murder. They waited another four years for the suspect, Charles C. Peterson, to reach trial.

They sat through more than a week of testimony about how Cardoso was shot to death during a Christmas Eve robbery at the Big Lots store where he worked. Then they waited 10 hours as a jury deliberated.

About 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the wait ended. Jurors returned a guilty verdict against Peterson.

"Justice has been served. It took a long time, but finally," said Nancy Goodman, Cardoso's sister-in-law.

The same 12-person jury will return to court Friday to decide whether Peterson should face the death penalty for the 1997 murder at the Tyrone area discount store.

Prosecutors may argue that Peterson deserves the death penalty because the crime occurred during a robbery and was particularly cold; Cardoso was shot in the back, likely when he was kneeling.

Peterson's defense attorneys will ask jurors to spare Peterson from death row and send him to prison for life. They are likely to argue that Peterson, 46, suffers from a mental illness.

Peterson is serving multiple life sentences for a 1997 robbery of a Tampa discount store in which two female clerks were raped. Detectives connected Peterson to that robbery through DNA left at the scene.

St. Petersburg police detectives connected Peterson to the Big Lots murder because of striking similarities in the two hold-ups. In both cases, along with two other local robberies connected to Peterson, the robber entered the store as a customer, hid until closing and attacked the employees.

There was no physical evidence directly linking Peterson to the Big Lots shooting. Two witnesses said they thought they could identify Peterson as the robber, but at times said they weren't absolutely certain.

[Last modified July 28, 2005, 01:09:17]

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