Jury recommends death for former MacDill sergeant - WFLA News Channel 8

Jury recommends death for former MacDill sergeant

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7 people on a 12-member jury say Ralph Wright should be punished with the death penalty, for the murders of his former girlfriend and their son.  The judge will make the final ruling on his sentence.  A hearing is set for March 8.

Earlier in the day, the former MacDill Sergeant's sentencing hearing took an unusual twist when he told the judge he wanted to testify before the jury that would decide if he'd face the death penalty.

Defendant Ralph Wright said, "My whole purpose is to simply let the jury know some things that they were it made aware of several things over the past four weeks were said about me that were just not true."

His attorney's told the judge they were surprised to learn their client wanted to address the court.

Bjorn Brunvand, Wright's defense attorney said, "It is my recommendation and I have strongly recommended to Mr. Wright that he should not testify certainly not reference the issues that he want to testify about."

After meeting with his attorneys, Wright decided not to testify before the jury allowing the hearing to move forward.

Prosecutors said Wright strangled 37 year old Paula O'Connor and suffocated fifteen month old Alijah inside their St. Petersburg home in 2007.

Sate's attorney Jim Hellickson said, "He murdered to avoid paying child support, past present and future and any medical expenses for Alijah, and on behalf of Paula past present and future."

The defense introduced several of Wright's family members who testified they would visit him in prison if he was spared the death penalty.

Sharon Wright, the defendant's sister, was asked by the defense attorney, "How will you be affected if he is sentenced to die?"  She said, "It is going to hurt because the father I never had he was the one who stepped in and I feel like my father is being taken away from me."

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