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Monday, October 12, 2009

Death Penalty Sought in Slaying of Florida Couple

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- Prosecutors said Monday they will seek the death penalty for four of eight people charged in the killings of a Panhandle couple known for adopting children with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs.

In a brief statement, State Attorney Bill Eddins said he had filed notices to seek death for the accused ring leader, 35-year-old Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr.; 28-year-old Donnie Ray Stallworth; 41-year-old Wayne Thomas Coldiron; and 19-year-old Frederick Lee Thornton Jr.
All four have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, along with two other men and a 16-year-old boy. A woman has pleaded not guilty to accessory to first-degree murder.

Cheryl Alverson, an attorney for Thornton, said she heard the news late Monday and hadn't had a chance to talk with her client.

''We are not happy about it,'' she said. ''Anytime there is an issue like this, you have to prepare for the worst.''

Alverson, who was appointed by the state, said she would likely withdraw from the case because she was not qualified to defend a death penalty case.

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