BROWARD COURTS

Broward jury: Man who stabbed landlord should get the death penalty

 

Facing Death Row, a Broward County man convicted of stabbing his landlord to death in a grisly home invasion says he did not commit the crime.

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

Convicted of first-degree murder, Randy W. Tundidor still maintains he’s innocent — even though he wouldn’t put up a fight Monday to save himself from Florida’s Death Row.

With his paradoxical default, Tundidor made it easier for a Broward Circuit Court jury to recommend unanimously that he get death instead of life in prison for the violent home invasion that could have been scripted by Quentin Tarantino.

The 12-person jury deliberated for less than two hours before recommending the stiffest punishment possible for Tundidor, who was found guilty in May of stabbing Joseph Morrissey, his landlord, to death and then setting his Plantation home on fire while the victim’s wife and son were in a nearby bedroom.

Tundidor, 45, a pasty, overweight man dressed in black-and-white prison garb instead of civilian clothes, remained stoic when the jury’s death penalty was read in court.

Afterward, the victim’s widow, Linda Morrissey, said she was going home to play LEGOS with her son — though the jury’s decision seemed to impart little solace for the horrific death of her 46-year-old husband, Joseph Morrissey.

“At the end of the day, I still go home without a husband and my son without a dad,” she said, thanking the jurors, judge, police and prosecutors. “But I guess you could say the state had a good day today.”

Tundidor, formerly of Plantation, was convicted by the same Broward County jury of 10 felony criminal charges, including first-degree murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, armed kidnapping, burglary and arson.

Monday morning, the jury of six men and six women reconvened to hear testimony and begin deliberating whether to recommend life in prison or Death Row for the 2010 murder of Morrissey, an assistant professor and science researcher at Nova Southeastern University who had rented a town house to Tundidor.

Defense attorney Richard Rosenbaum said he was prepared to argue for his client to be sentenced to life in prison, but Tundidor ordered him not to call any witnesses — such as a psychologist — on his behalf.

“I was curtailed today by not being able to present any mitigating evidence,” Rosenbaum said. “There was substantial mitigating evidence that I think would have prompted a reasonable jury to come back with a life recommendation, but Mr. Tundidor wouldn’t let me use it,” he said, adding that he could not elaborate.

“He does maintain his innocence,” Rosenbaum said. “He said that he didn’t do it. He said that all along. ... He didn’t want to drag his family through the mud.”

Rosenbaum said Tundidor wants a new trial, and his defense team will be filing a motion to that effect on Tuesday.

Broward Circuit Judge Cynthia Imperato will have the final say on Tundidor’s punishment. Rarely do judges stray from a jury’s recommendation. Her decision likely won’t come until early next year.

Jurors reached their guilty verdict after a nearly two-week trial that included dramatic testimony from Morrissey’s wife, Tundidor’s two sons and his girlfriend.

In August 2011, Tundidor’s oldest son, Randy H. Tundidor, 23, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder to avoid the death penalty.

During his father’s trial, Randy H. Tundidor testified that he broke into the Morrisseys’ home, held the couple at gunpoint, bound their hands and feet with plastic ties, rummaged through their house for valuables and forced them to drive to an ATM to withdraw cash.

But the younger Tundidor testified it was his father who plotted the crime and fatally stabbed Morrissey.

The elder Tundidor then poured gasoline around Joseph Morrissey’s body and the kitchen area, and set the house on fire, the son testified, while Linda Morrissey — still bound at her hands and feet — and son Patrick, then 5, remained in the master bedroom.

The motive?

Days before his murder, Morrissey had sent a letter to Tundidor requesting overdue security deposits.

Jurors found the elder Tundidor guilty despite the lack of physical evidence placing him at the scene, and the fact that a murder weapon was never recovered.

Broward prosecutors Tom Coleman and Steve Zaccor said Morrissey was stabbed nine times with what they believe was a 16-inch Bowie knife similar to one the elder Tundidor sold at his window-tinting shop.

The elder Tundidor’s defense attorney Christopher Pole asserted he was asleep at his business on the night of the murder while Randy H. Tundidor went on a violent, crack cocaine-fueled rampage.

For the elder Tundidor, legal troubles were nothing new. State and federal court records revealed numerous judgments against him for money owed and contracts broken; four evictions since 1995; three bankruptcies since 1989; three divorces since 1991 (one filed by his wife on Valentine’s Day); and dropped charges in a 1990s murder-for-hire plot that resulted in his being shot several times in the chest.

“Mr. Tundidor is a truly unique individual,” said Alvin Entin, a Fort Lauderdale defense attorney who once represented Bentsy Muram, a former associate of Tundidor.

How unique? Tundidor lied to police in what everyone thought was a deathbed confession after he was shot in October 1993, Entin recalled.

That lie had to do with Muram, a South Florida brake shop franchisee convicted in 1997 of the murder of a former tenant. Muram had allegedly hired Tundidor to carry out the killing, then tried to murder Tundidor for good measure. Muram was found guilty; charges against Tundidor were dropped when the witness against him, a prostitute, disappeared.

Said Entin: “[The judge] said he had never met a person who ever lied on a dying declaration.”

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