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    Transient gets 35 years for murder

    He pleads guilty to a lesser charge in the stabbing of a Palm Harbor man he met at a lounge in Tampa. He took the victim's truck and credit cards.

    By WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 10, 2001


    LARGO -- A transient accused of cutting the throat of a Palm Harbor man for his truck and credit cards has pleaded guilty to a second-degree murder charge.

    A Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge sentenced Darran Scott Reppond to 35 years in prison for the April 2000 stabbing death of Joseph F. Hart not long after the pair met at a Tampa lounge.

    Prosecutor Pat Siracusa told Judge Nancy Moate Ley on Thursday that Reppond, who has a long history of drug abuse, slashed the victim's throat and then fled with the victim's 1994 Ford Bronco, $50 in cash and some credit cards.

    Reppond then drove to Lake Wales in Polk County, where he made purchases on those stolen credit cards to buy merchandise for drug dealers, Siracusa said.

    Reppond, 30, had faced life in prison after a grand jury initially indicted him on first-degree murder charges. But with the blessing of the victim's family, prosecutors agreed to a negotiated plea.

    Reppond also is accused of a 1998 killing in Lafayette, La., and police there say he already has confessed to that slaying and is expected to be extradited later this year.

    "We're going to use evidence from our case to supplement the investigation in Louisiana," Siracusa said. "The facts he pleaded to are shockingly similar to the murder investigation there."

    Hart, 61, and Reppond met at the KiKiKi Lounge on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa. Police said that Reppond told the victim that he had been in Tampa only a short time and needed a place to stay.

    Hart offered to put him up at his Palm Harbor home at 2950 Tangerine Ter.

    Reppond told detectives that he became enraged at some point during the night after Hart came on to him, though prosecutors and police were doubtful of his claim.

    The victim had no defensive wounds on his body. Reppond's footprint was found in a bathroom and a fingerprint was found on a knife in the kitchen that was similar to the murder weapon, Siracusa told the judge.

    The 35-year sentence Reppond received is above state guidelines for a second-degree murder conviction.

    Hart, a divorced father with two adult sons, worked mostly from his home for his own business, Sana-Med Inc., a medical and pharmaceuticals distribution firm.

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