8. Death row no longer at play for Virginia Larzelere in murder of Edgewater dentist-husband

NSBNEWS.net video by Sera King. Virginia Larzelere could be released from prison in eight years or even sooner, despite a life sentence in the killing of her dentist-husband, Dr. Norman Larzelere.

DAYTONA BEACH -- Virginia Larzelere, the condemned mastermind behind the 1991 shotgun slaying of her Edgewater dentist-husband for a $2.1 million life insurance payout was all smiles Aug. 1, at the Justice Center because even though she was sentenced to life in prison, the death penaty was no longer at play.

As if that was not reason enough to smile, Larzelere, now 55, could get out of prison in eight years or even sooner because of gain time under the old Florida sentencing guidelines that were in effect at the time of her conviction. Because of the passage of time, both the state and defense attorneys told Circuit Judge Joseph Will they were in agreement on the life sentence as opposed to a full blown hearing and the possibility of seeking a new death sentence.

Still, Larzelere maintaind her innocence, telling the judge: "Whatever sentence you impose today doesn't alter the fact it is the wrong conviction." Larzelere, however, told the judge she was ready to be sentenced as agreed by opposing counsel: "There's nothing you can do for me today that will be worse than the last 15 years for something I didn't do."

Before handing down the new sentence, Judge Will responded, "I understand. Thank you."

Dr. Norman Larzelere was shot to death by a masked intruder armed with a shotgun. Shot through the door to his inner office, the victim cried out for "Jason" as if he knew the shooter was his adopted son, Jason Larzelere, 18. Virginia and her natural son, Jason, were indicted and tried separately on charges of capital murder -- she as the mastermind and he as the triggerman. The trial was portrayed by media then as one of greed and infideility. She was tried and convicted with a jury recommending death in the electric chair by a 7-5 vote, which Circuit Judge John W. Watson subsequently handed down.

Jason Larzelere was acquitted of first-degree murder seven months later when his trial was moved to Polk County because of the adverse publicity surrounding the case. Much of the state's evidence in both cases hinged on testimony from Jason's friend, Steven Heidle, who led the police to a shotgun and handgun in a river basin, claiming it was the murder weapon he dumped into the river on Jason Larzelere's behalf. At Virginia Larzelere's trial, Jason Larzelere was called as a defense witness with the sole purpose of standing side by side with Heidle before the jury. Both were strikingly similar in physical appearance. Heidle later committed suicide and Jason Larzelere moved to Europe several years ago.

An alternative theory of how Norman Larzelere was killed, possibly by Heidle, was presented at Jason Larzelere's trial that enough reasonable doubt was planted in the jury's mind for an outright acquittal. Still, Virginia Larzelere sat on Florida's Death Row for 15 years until her death sentence was tossed out by the Florida Supreme Court under the provision of innefective assistance of counsel. Her defense attorney, Jack Wilkens of Polk County, was convicted of laundering drug money and obstruction of justice in unrelated matters two years after her sentence and sent to federal prison for six-plus years.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com, launched April 7, 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with scores of regional, state & national journalism-industry awards for nearly 100 breaking news & investigative reporting stories in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut.
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