Daughter pleads for Deparvine's life

Kourtney Deparvine described her dad as supportive and fun in a hearing today.

Published November 22, 2005

TAMPA -- A prosecutor called convicted double murderer William Deparvine "cold and calculated" at a hearing Tuesday at the Hillsborough County courthouse.

A psychologist called him manipulative, impulsive and self-destructive.

Kourtney Deparvine, 28, just called him dad.

Deparvine's youngest daughter took the stand to support the defense's attempt to get Judge J. Rogers Padgett to overturn a jury's 8 to 4 recommendation that Deparvine, 53, be sentenced to death for the November 2003 shooting deaths of Richard and Karla Van Dusen.

The judge will set a sentencing date for Deparvine after reviewing written memorandums about the appropriate punishment from the defense and prosecution. Kourtney Deparvine clutched a tissue and struggled through tears as she read a statement, hoping to counter what she called her father's "horrid depiction evident in newscasts and newspaper articles over the past two years."

Deparvine was convicted of shooting a Tierra Verde couple in the back of their heads at point-blank range and dumping their bodies in a dirt driveway near Old Memorial Highway in northwest Hillsborough.

But Kourtney Deparvine portrayed him as a supportive father.

She was prone to ear infections as a child, and he sat with her through her recovery from major reconstructive ear surgery, she said. She also remembered him joining in on kickball games with her friends.

"I remember my friends saying "I wish my dad was as fun as yours,' " she said.

He helped her with her homework, and emphasized the importance of education. When she decided to take up the French horn in school, he joked about her choice of instrument, but he was always at her concerts.

"At one time, he was not the terrible person depicted in court, on the TV or in newspaper articles," she said, and pleaded to Padgett to spare his life.

"Please consider this man is a father," she said.

The defense also attempted to use mental health problems as mitigating circumstances for the crimes. Psychologist Eric Rosen said Deparvine's emotional abuse as a child and testimony from his family members showed he had traits of anti-social, narcissistic and borderline disorders.

Rosen said Deparvine also shows signs of dysthymic disorder, a long-term condition Rosen described as a "low-grade fever" depression, not as acute as other forms, but chronic.

But Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner questioned Rosen's training as a forensic psychologist, since Rosen has never evaluated the sanity of criminals during sentencing. Another psychologist, Randy Otto said that because Deparvine was quiet and uncooperative during his consultation with Rosen, psychologists had no self-reported information that would have connected mental health problems with the choices Deparvine made on the day of the murders.

Additionally, patients with dysthymic disorder don't experience the same loss of control over their decisions or daily life as those with more serious conditions, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

The defense suggested that the jury who decided on capital punishment in August was influenced by the emotion-packed testimoy from the victims' family members, and made the decision irrationally, in less than an hour after nine days of testimony.

"The fact that jurors were sobbing shows that this wasn't a non-emotional decision for them," said public defender Samantha L. Ward.

Ward said that the State of Florida is the only state in the country that doesn't require a unanimous jury decision on a death sentence. She said the Supreme Court has decided that the death penalty should only be reserved for the most aggravated and least mitigated murders, and the 8-to-4 split made room for mitigation.

Pruner said there was no legal error in the prosecution's strategy, and suggested the nine days of testimony captured Deparvine as a cold, calculated murderer.

-- Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 813 226-3354 or at azayas@sptimes.com