Notorious California rapist Lawrence Singleton was found guilty Friday of the first-degree murder of a Tampa, Fla., prostitute, setting the stage for a dramatic courtroom appearance by the woman whose forearms he chopped off 20 years ago.
Mary Bell Vincent, who was 15 when she was abducted near Berkeley, Calif., raped and left for dead, is expected to testify in Tampa next week when prosecutors ask jurors to recommend that Singleton, 70, be sentenced to death.
A face-to-face meeting between Singleton and Vincent is likely to be a wrenching emotional ordeal for the divorced mother of two, who now lives in Seattle. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last February, Vincent, now 35, said that she has been tortured by nightmares about Singleton and that even hearing his name has made her panic.
But prosecutors said that Vincent, who is fitted with prosthetic hands, will be called to testify about Singleton’s attack on her as the state makes a case for his execution.
“She has been deposed as a second-phase witness,” said Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner. “We expect her to testify.”
Jurors heard no testimony about Singleton’s past crimes before finding Singleton guilty of first-degree murder in the brutal stabbing death of Roxanne Hayes, a 31-year-old prostitute who agreed to come to his suburban Tampa home last February and perform an act of oral sex in exchange for $20 and a meal.
The burly Singleton showed no reaction when he heard the verdict, which came after less than four hours of deliberation.
From the witness stand Thursday, Singleton explained that he had stabbed Hayes accidentally seven times in the face, chest and abdomen as they struggled over a boning knife. “I wasn’t aware the knife was going in and out” of Hayes, he said.
During jury selection, each of the nine men and three women chosen to serve was asked questions that determined that none of them knew about Singleton’s California crimes and the uproar over his parole that helped push state legislators to pass tougher sentencing laws. Although convicted of rape, attempted murder and sexual offenses in the Vincent case, Singleton served a little more than eight years of the maximum 14-year sentence he received before being paroled. His sentence was reduced because he worked in prison and his behavior was good.