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Suspect lashes out in letter to judge

A man charged in a 1999 murder says another man, who has been convicted, should be put to death.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001


DADE CITY -- Faunce Levon Pearce, accused of a 1999 murder, told a judge this week that the man convicted of participating in the same killing is an animal and should die for the crime.

Pearce, 39, is charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty himself if convicted of the September 1999 murder of 17-year-old Robert Crawford in what authorities have described as a botched drug deal.

Investigators say Pearce was the ringleader and Lawrence Joey Smith, 23, was the triggerman.

But while maintaining his innocence as he has all along, Pearce blasted Smith for his actions in a letter to Circuit Judge Maynard Swanson.

"Joey should be put to death for what he has done," Pearce told the judge. "This was no accident, this was an act of cold blooded murder and Joey shows no sign that he is in any way sorry for what he has done. Please don't let this animal back out to kill again."

Smith was convicted May 3 of killing Crawford and wounding Stephen Tuttle, 17. Both Land O'Lakes High School students were shot in the head along a dark stretch of State Road 54.

A jury recommended Smith be put to death. Swanson will hear additional evidence July 13 before sentencing him.

Pearce has claimed all along that he was afraid of Smith and that he was at the scene but he was as much a victim as Crawford and Tuttle.

"Because I am a participant and a victim myself, I feel I have the right to express my opinion in this matter!" Pearce wrote. "Yes, I was there and yes not a day goes by that I don't think if I had done something different that Robert might still be alive, but then again, we might all be dead as well."

Pearce said his goal now is to see Smith die for the crime.

"I can not bring Robert back no matter what I do, but I can do whatever it takes to keep this from happening to someone else," Pearce wrote. "And given the chance, Mr. Smith will kill again.

"I do think that there are a lot of problems with application of the death penalty, but as I have said, I was there and I know that there is no question as to his guilt," Pearce wrote. "And this is why I feel so strongly about the fact that he should receive the death penalty."

Pearce also insisted that Crawford and Tuttle have wrongly been labeled drug dealers. The teens, he said, were just "tagalongs."

Investigators say Tuttle brokered an LSD deal for Pearce, but friends betrayed him and stole Pearce's $1,000. Pearce, according to investigators, got angry and summoned Smith and two other men for armed backup. The group drove the boys to SR 54 where Smith shot them.

Pearce says he never blamed the teens for losing his money.

"I have no reason to lie to you," he wrote to the judge.

He signed the note, "May God be with us all."

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