A Miami man who spent more than a decade on the lam is guilty of brutally murdering his girlfriend in November 1990, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Walter Sapp, 54, was convicted of stabbing Juliet Walden to death in front of her three young sons, whom hurled rocks at him as he ran away from the crime scene. Walden was stabbed 17 times, and her jugular was slashed, inside her Liberty City home.
He was convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced immediately to life in prison.
Sapp vanished after the murder. Years later, Miami homicide detectives found him serving time in a prison in California for pimping an underage girl. He was extradited to Miami in 2006.
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The three children, now adults, testified at the trial that started last week.
“They handled it with such grace,” said Miami Police’s Eunice Cooper, a senior executive to the chief who was the lead detective on the case. “I’ve been a part of their lives for so long, it’s nice to see them get justice for their mother.”
Sapp did not face a jury – instead, he elected at the 11th hour to have a “bench trial” before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez.
Representing himself, he had argued that prosecutors indicted the wrong Walter Sapp – another man with the same name was living in Miami at the same time.
The judge issued her guilty verdict early Tuesday afternoon.