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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

Partner guilty, gets life sentence in fatal Pinellas stabbing

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Published:   |   Updated: February 13, 2014 at 02:47 PM

CLEARWATER — After deliberating over a two-day period, a jury convicted a South Pasadena man of fatally stabbing his longtime lover over a lingering argument about gold and a trip to Utah.

John Hill, 48, was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the May 28, 2009, slaying of Charles Longboat, 50, in the driveway of the home they shared at 750 65th St.

Circuit Court Judge Chris Helinger sentenced Hill to life in prison.

Hill and Longboat had been together 23 years. Hill stabbed Longboat 29 times with a 13-inch butcher knife.

The trial was marked as much by Hill’s uncourtly behavior as it was by the evidence presented, which included testimony by Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies, Longboat’s mother and a 911 call Hill placed before the slaying.

Repeatedly during his trial, Hill shouted, “I object,” — a term typically reserved for attorneys — before going into a rant about what he said were crucial legal precedents, problems with the evidence and his general inability to tell the story of what happened as he saw it.

Helinger decided Hill was so disruptive that she had him moved to the courtroom next door to follow the trial.

Hill was not in the courtroom when the jury’s verdict was read.

Prosecutors said Hill killed Longboat after he balked at the notions that the two take a trip to Utah and take some gold Hill claimed he had purchased with $598,000 he inherited upon his mother’s death. Longboat didn’t want to go because he had a job with the state Department of Health as a social worker and was looking after his mother, who lived nearby.

After Longboat’s death, and Hill’s arrest, there was a court battle over who should get the gold, with a judge ultimately deciding it should be put in Longboat’s estate.

“This man has been a heartache for this family,” William Longboat Jr., 73, Charles’ oldest brother, told Helinger before Hill’s sentencing. “All he ever thought about was the value of the gold.”

Longboat’s mother, Wilhelmina, 92, was too distraught to give a statement, family members said.

Even after he was found guilty, Hill acted out, telling Helinger she should recuse herself and replace his attorney, Danny Hernandez. He also said prosecutors conspired against him.

Helinger refused to replace Hernandez, telling Hill that he had done an exemplary job, with jurors deliberating for more than four hours over what could have been a “slam dunk” case.

Helinger then sentenced Hill to life, the only penalty available under Florida law because prosecutors weren’t seeking the death penalty.

. Hill said he was going to appeal.

“I feel this has been an unfair trial,” Hill said. “I intend to take this to the highest levels I can.”

sthompson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-6504.

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