Carlos Hallowell took a courtroom microphone into his cuffed hands and began apologizing to his adoptive mother, Denise Hallowell.
“Although she’s not with us, I know she’s listening,” the 19-year-old said. “Mom, I’m so very sorry. Words can’t describe how I feel right now, how much I miss you, how sorry I am for what I’ve done and everything I’ve done throughout my entire life with you ... I love you so much.”
Hallowell will spend the rest of his life in state custody for murdering 57-year-old Denise Hallowell the afternoon of July 13, 2019, inside their Inverness-area home.
Citrus County Circuit Court Judge Richard “Ric” Howard announced the order Tuesday, Sept. 14, finding Hallowell is an “incorrigible offender” who can never be rehabilitated.
Hallowell showed little emotion after the judge ordered his punishment; he shook his head gently as bailiffs escorted him away.
Hallowell faced a prison term of between 40 years and up to life after jurors in July found him guilty of Denise Hallowell’s premeditated murder.
“Your honor,” Hallowell said Tuesday to Howard, “the only thing I ask is for justice for my mom, and mercy for me.”
While charged as an adult, Hallowell wasn’t eligible for the death penalty because he was a 17-year-old minor when he plunged a full-sized axe into the back of Denise Hallowell’s head as she slept.
Hallowell’s age also required Howard during the sentencing to consider 10 factors focused on the nature of the crime, its impacts to the victims family and how Hallowell’s mentality contributed to it.
Howard’s decision came after the judge heard almost two days of evidence, starting Sept. 9, from attorneys trying to either mitigate Hallowell’s criminal acts or stress their severity. Howard also presided over Hallowell’s trial.
Denise Hallowell, a single mother, adopted Hallowell from Guatemala when he was 4.
Howard said Hallowell excelled in his new mother’s nurturing environment, earning scholastic and athletic achievements.
“From early childhood to early adolescence, the defendant was a happy child,” he said. “Ms. Hallowell funded the defendant’s college savings account, and covered all bills for the family.”
It wasn’t until Hallowell turned 11 years old when he consumed his life with alcohol and drugs, abusing and experimenting with marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, acid, methamphetamine and prescription pills.
“The defendant chose, on his own volition, to begin taking increasing amounts of alcohol and a veritable witches brew of controlled substances,” Howard said, discounting argument’s Hallowell was influenced by either an undeveloped brain, abuses or the “dysphoria of youth.”
Hallowell would later get expelled from school in January 2019, but Denise Hallowell didn’t find out until May.
Howard said the news “crushed” Denise Hallowell, causing her to crack down on her son’s bad influences.
Hallowell’s defense team argued he suffered under his mother’s strict and overbearing parenting.
“Ms. Hallowell didn’t deserve to die,” Howard said, and did “as any mother naturally would” by wanting the best for Hallowell’s future.
Hallowell was motivated instead by his desire to acquire his mother’s estate as the executor of her will, Howard said.
“The defendant’s murder of his mother was not a result of any sudden outburst of emotion or aberrant thought,” the judge said. “Rather, it is and was the culmination of his desire to acquire his mother’s real estate, cars and other property.”
Howard said immaturity and impetuosity weren’t factors when Hallowell followed through on his intent to kill Denise Hallowell at her most vulnerable moment, and then try to hide evidence by throwing it in a nearby pond.
“The defendant took a long time to plan his attack ... until victim had taken a nap,” the judge said. “All the while, quietly sharpening the axe in his room.”
Howard also noted how psychologists hired by both Hallowell’s defense and prosecution to evaluate him were hesitant to say Hallowell could be reformed.
Referring to the testimony, Howard said Hallowell has anti-social personality disorder and meets 16 of the 20 criteria for psychopathy.
“There is no rehabilitation for a psychopath,” the judge said.
Hallowell is eligible for a sentence review 25 years into his punishment. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ed Spaight, said his client will also be appealing Howard’s sentence