TAMPA, Fla. – A convicted sex offender was sentenced to life in prison Friday for strangling a 13-year-old girl and dumping her body in a pond.
Prosecutors planned to seek the death penalty for David Lee Onstott, but a judge threw out a confession and no forensic evidence linked him to the death of Sarah Lunde.
A jury convicted Onstott Thursday of a lesser charge of second-degree murder. On Friday, prosecutors and Lunde's mother asked Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta to give him the maximum sentence, which was life.
"We're the biggest losers," said Lunde's mother, Kelly May. "We've lost Sarah."
Sarah disappeared from her home in Ruskin, south of Tampa, in April 2005. Prosecutors said Onstott strangled her after going to the trailer one night looking for her mother, whom he had dated. Her partially clothed body was found a week later in an abandoned fish pond.
Onstott apologized for any pain he had caused.
"I know she don't want to hear it, Kelly, you know, my condolences," he said. "I'm sorry."
May muttered something inaudible in reply.
Onstott's attorney, John Skye, told Ficarrotta that Onstott is an attentive father and grandfather who held a job and paid child support but has made some mistakes.
"I would ask you to look forward," he said.
But Ficarrotta called Onstott a "volcano" who poses a threat to the community.
"Sarah Lunde was 13 years old," he told Onstott. "She was murdered. And you are responsible. From the evidence, it's clear that Sarah Lunde did not have an easy life, but it was her life. And you chose to end that life. And for that, you deserve the maximum punishment."
Among those in the packed courtroom was Mark Lunsford, the father of Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a convicted sex offender north of Tampa shortly before Sarah's death.
"Another one bites the dust," he told reporters outside.