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Jury Recommends Death Sentence For Singleton Murderer Called ‘Old, Mean-Spirited Drunk, Who Hates Women’

Thu., Feb. 26, 1998

A jury recommended Wednesday that Lawrence Singleton be executed for stabbing a prostitute to death in his home 20 years after he raped a girl and chopped off her forearms.

Singleton, 70, showed no emotion as the verdict was read after just an hour of deliberations. He was convicted last week of murdering Roxanne Hayes, a 31-year-old prostitute and mother of three.

In closing arguments, Singleton’s lawyer, John Skye, called him a “ruined old man” who should die lonely in prison rather than be executed.

But prosecutor Jay Pruner, in asking jurors to recommend the death sentence, said: “He’s an old, mean-spirited drunk, who hates women and has pickled his brain through alcoholism.”

The sentence recommendation comes a day after Mary Vincent - the woman he raped and mutilated 20 years ago - testified on behalf of prosecutors.

Singleton occasionally wiped his eyes during his lawyer’s closing argument.

“Rather than hearing a news story about how the state of Florida fried Lawrence Singleton, we can hear a story like this: ‘Lawrence Singleton died in his jail cell today, lonely and alone and despised,”’ Skye said.

The jury’s only other option was life in prison.

The jury voted 10-2 in favor of death.

Only a majority vote is needed and Florida judges usually follow the jury’s recommendation.

A sentencing hearing was set for March 30.

Vincent testified Tuesday that she was a 15-year-old runaway when Singleton, a retired merchant marine, picked her up in California in his van in 1978, offered to drive her to Los Angeles, then repeatedly raped her before hacking off her forearms and leaving her for dead.

“I was raped and I had my hands cut off,” said the mother of two, now 35. “He used a hatchet. He left me to die.”

She survived after walking naked for almost two miles on a remote ranch, holding the remains of her arms up to slow the flow of blood. She testified against him at his California trial.

Several California towns refused to have Singleton when he was paroled for the attack about 10 years ago.

Singleton was arrested last year in Tampa after a house painter walked in and saw him attacking Hayes, who was dead when police arrived.

Singleton told jurors she had attacked him with a knife and he was trying to grab the weapon when the blade plunged seven times into her body.

Singleton denied attacking Ms. Vincent, but he admitted stabbing Ms. Hayes, telling reporters after his arrest last February: “I was framed the first time. But this time I did it.”

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