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‘I killed my father’

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Hatchet-wielding man guilty of murder

By Abdon Sidibe

INVERNESS —- The hatchet-wielding man accused of sneaking up on his father and hacking him to death has been found guilty.

It took the jury a hair over two hours of deliberation Friday to find John William Campbell, 39, guilty of first-degree murder in the death of John Henry Campbell, 68. He now potentially faces the death penalty.

That phase of the trial is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Circuit Judge Ric Howard’s courtroom. 

The Campbell trial presented jurors with a choice of whether to convict him as charged or opt for a lesser charge and potentially spare him death row. Campbell, via his defense team of public defenders Michael Lamberti and Devon Sharkey, never disputed the fact he killed his father in August 2010, but his state of mind was such he did not scheme to kill him and then cover it up. Campbell’s attorneys called it a “pressure-cooker” situation brought on mostly by a controlling, set-in-his-ways and distant father, and the younger Campbell simply snapped. Father and son shared a doublewide home in Inverness.

“He knows what he did was wrong and he still struggles with what he did,” Sharkey told jurors during closing arguments Friday morning.

Sharkey said Campbell clearly admitted his actions but said Campbell was in a daze, foggy in the mind, depressed and dealing with a rekindled passion for crack cocaine when he grabbed a wood-handled hammer-like hatchet and buried it in his father’s skull — three times — as he sat in a chair. The senior Campbell’s last words were “what was that?” after the initial blow. 

Campbell admitted to Citrus County Sheriff’s Detective Gary Atchison in a taped confession he knew the second strike was the death blow because he felt resistance which meant the blade had penetrated the skull.

“I killed my father,” Campbell told jurors when he took the stand Thursday.

He, however, said depression and a belief he was bringing peace to his father, who he believes also was emotionally tormented, led him to commit homicide.

Meanwhile, the prosecution team of Pete Magrino and Rich Buxman tried to paint a different picture of Campbell during the trial.

Prosecutors presented evidence — in Campbell’s own words — that he planned his father’s death for days. They explained Campbell grabbed the hatchet, went and sat with it at a computer desk behind where his father was sitting, thought about what he was going to do and sneaked up behind his unsuspecting father and hit him multiple times over the head.

“Chopped in the head and murdered him,” Magrino said to jurors in his closing.

Magrino then described how Campbell tried to scrub off the blood on the hatchet to conceal his actions and rifled through his father’s pants pockets, stealing his a credit card then going on a shopping spree. A string of actions, Magrino believes, added up to premeditation and felonious murder.

After the verdict, Magrino said he believed the jury decision was the “appropriate verdict.”

Sharkey said he was disappointed they lost, but the defense will present mitigating elements in the penalty phase to help keep their client off death row.