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Townsend enters no contest pleas, gets two more life terms in killings

In 1980, Townsend was convicted of two other first-degree murders in Broward. Last month, the state Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld those convictions.

After Townsend's pleas Monday, Broward Circuit Judge Stanton Kaplan imposed two more life sentences that will run concurrently with the two life terms Townsend received in 1980.

Townsend, a 30-year-old carnival worker from Hallandale, told detectives after his arrest on Sept. 5, 1979, that he had embarked on a six-year murder spree around the country because of his revulsion for streetwalkers.

Townsend, who is mentally retarded, seems to have included in his list of victims any woman he found walking on the streets.

Monday's pleas by Townsend involved Terry Cummings, 20, who was dressed in her McDonald's uniform and returning from work to her home at 2770 NW 11th Ct., Fort Lauderdale, when Townsend dragged her into a vacant lot and strangled her.

The other victim, Cathy L. Moore, of 2613 NW 18th Ter., Oakland Park, was apparently just walking around. Relatives described the 24-year-old woman as slightly retarded and by no means a prostitute.

In exchange for Townsend's plea on two counts of second- degree murder, Assistant State Attorney Kelly Hancock agreed to drop two other cases that had been scheduled for trial this week.

They involved Sonja Marion, 13, of 2301 NE 12th Ct., Fort Lauderdale, whose body was found in a utility room at Dillard High School; and Ernestine German, 23, of 2610 NW Eighth Ct., near Fort Lauderdale, whose body was found in a vacant lot at NW 25th Avenue and 22nd Road, about 20 feet from the spot police found another of Townsend's victims in 1973. German was the only prostitute among the 1979 victims.

Hancock said Monday's plea "closes the book on Townsend as far as the seven murders in Broward are concerned." Townsend was acquitted of one. In Dade, Townsend still faces one count of murder and another of sexual battery. His lawyer, Howard Zeidwig, said Dade officials are waiting for final decisions from appellate courts before proceeding with their cases.

"There is a question how many life sentences one man needs, " Hancock said.

Hancock said the jury that heard the two cases in 1980 recommended life in prison rather than the death penalty because of Townsend's low intelligence. Hancock said he doubted another jury would differ.

Townsend's murder spree came to an end after he allegedly raped a woman in front of five witnesses near the Miami bus station.

After his arrest, Townsend told police he could lead them to several bodies. In one case, animals had moved the skeletal remains but medical examiners found hair and other evidence that the woman had died just where Townsend said. Later, he stopped cooperating.

Despite inconsistencies in some of his statements, authorities have no doubt Townsend committed numerous murders.

"I'm glad I killed that girl, " he said in one taped conversation with police. "I'd do it again. You'd have to get between me and her to stop me."