Judy Briggs stood only 10 feet from the man she once called her brother-in-law.
Moments after William Hurst was found guilty of the 1982 slaying of his wife, Amy Hurst, Briggs addressed him inside a second-floor courtroom at the West Pasco Judicial Center on Thursday afternoon.
“You destroyed two families. Not just ours. Your family was destroyed, too,” Briggs said. “You should be ashamed of yourself. As you go to bed every night in your rotten cell and close your eyes, will you please think of my sister Amy that you murdered?”
Though Hurst didn’t reply, Briggs said she saw tears in his eyes.
Amy Hurst’s remains were found by fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico in September 1982, 27 miles from shore, near the Sunshine Skyway. Her body was wrapped in a green bedspread and a beige, brown and orange afghan. A rope was tied around the remains and tethered to a concrete block. There were signs of blunt-force trauma to her head.
Hurst, 61, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Circuit Court Judge William R. Webb. Hurst has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
It took the jury of six men and six women nearly 2 1/2 hours to deliver the verdict after receiving the case just before 1 p.m.
“It’s finally over,” Amy Hurst’s son, Jeff Earley, said. “We did our sentence for 30 years, so he gets to do his now. Like my aunt said, when he rots in his jail cell and he sleeps every night, he can think about what he did. [I] hope it wears on him a little bit. He can do his time now and we can move on with our lives.”
Hurst is accused of hitting his wife in the head three times during an argument at their New Port Richey home in 1982.
Amy Hurst was 29 when she disappeared from the mobile home she shared with her husband.
William Hurst said he did not intentionally kill his wife. Though he did not take the stand, he told investigators he and his wife got into an argument. While she was lying on the couch and he was standing, she kicked at him, he said.
She missed, fell from the couch and hit her head on the floor, which knocked her unconscious.
Assistant Public Defender Dean Livermore, Hurst’s attorney, said his client was not guilty of intentionally killing his wife. Instead of malice, Livermore argued it was “stupidity” that kept him from calling for medical help after she hit her head.
“This is the case of a tragic accident in the cause of death of Amy Hurst,” Livermore said during his closing argument, “and a really stupid response by William Hurst. That’s all it is.”
Assistant State Attorney Chris Sprowls said there was nothing accidental about her death.
“There was nothing to indicate that this was an accident,” Sprowls said. “And everything to indicate that it was what? A premeditated murder by this defendant.”
Amy Hurst was a Jane Doe from the time her body was found Sept. 5, 1982, until a DNA match with her son was registered July 19, 2011.
In July 2011, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lisa Schoneman traveled to Dawson Springs, Ky., where she interviewed William Hurst about his wife’s disappearance. He said he knew nothing.
“I came home from work and she was gone,” Hurst told Schoneman.
Later, in a secretly recorded conversation, Hurst unknowingly revealed to a friend there was more to the story than he originally told detectives.
“I thought I got away with it but my past has caught up to me,” Hurst said in the recording.
During closing arguments Thursday, assistant state attorney Mike Halkitis reached into a cardboard box, pulling from it a small, square, concrete cinder block.
The block still had a segment of yellow rope attached to it, rope used to tie the block around the waist of Amy Rose Hurst in August 1982.
“The defendant tells him, ‘I dumped the body,’” Halkitis said, referring to the recorded conversation between William Hurst and another man. “‘I tied it with rope with a concrete block.’ Where’s the concrete block, folks? Where’s the rope? This is what he uses.”
Before sentencing Hurst to life in prison, the judge addressed him.
“Mr. Hurst, you are well and truly an evil man,” Webb said.