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Hudson man guilty of manslaughter

It rejects a murder charge against Lawrence Barrett in the stabbing of a man who died the next month of heart failure related to his wounds.

By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published April 7, 2006


NEW PORT RICHEY - If the state had its way, Lawrence Barrett would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

But a jury Thursday guaranteed that the Hudson man won't permanently reside at a Florida prison.

Twelve jurors found Barrett, who turns 21 Monday, guilty of manslaughter. The charge carries at most a 15-year sentence.

It's a reprieve from the first-degree murder charge prosecutors tried Barrett on this week.

They said he broke into his neighbor's Oakley Avenue home on Dec. 10, 2004, looking for drugs and money, then stabbed 69-year-old Donald Lee Watson when he woke up and hit Barrett.

Watson, who lived alone and had an amputated leg, died the next month of heart failure related to his wounds.

In November 2003, a Pasco jury had acquitted Watson on charges he molested a 14-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

Barrett told Pasco County sheriff's detectives that he was walking by Watson's home just after midnight when he noticed Watson's TV wasn't on like it usually was. As he walked closer, he heard his neighbor calling for help.

Barrett went inside and called 911.

But Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said that was the second time Barrett had been inside the home that night. On his first visit, he stabbed Watson three times, Halkitis said.

Barrett never confessed to detectives, but two of his friends testified that he admitted stabbing Watson to them.

The friends said they also heard Barrett singing lines that night from a Papa Roach tune: "Getting away with murder, getting away with murder."

"Well, we're lucky it wasn't 20 years ago or he might have been singing Mack the Knife ," Halkitis said.

Merely a poor choice of words, Assistant Public Defender Dean Livermore said.

He stressed that jurors should focus instead on the holes in the investigation. No murder weapon was introduced during the trial. Detectives overlooked other suspects or the possibility that Watson had killed himself, Livermore said.

He also questioned whether the stab wounds actually caused Watson's death, noting he had a bad heart, kidneys, liver and arteries before the attack.

"Don't punish (Barrett) for being a good Samaritan," Livermore said. "We've got all these other possibilities that nobody took a look at."

Barrett, who has no prior criminal record, will be sentenced May 19.

--Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 727 869-6236 or cjenkins@sptimes.com

[Last modified April 7, 2006, 01:32:03]


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