Pensacola, Florida (PNJ) -- A circuit court judge will decide whether to execute a Pensacola man who brutally murdered his boss at a restaurant during a robbery in 1998.
Timothy Hurst, 32, was convicted in April 2000 of first-degree murder in the killing of 28-year-old Cynthia Harrison. Harrison was Hurst's manager when he worked at the Popeye's on Nine Mile Road. Her body was found in the restaurant's freezer.
Her hands and mouth were wrapped with electrical tape, authorities said at the time, and her body had been slashed more than 60 times with a box cutter.
Circuit Judge Linda Nobles will sentence Hurst at 10 a..m. today for the crime. According to state law, Hurst can either be sentenced to death or life in prison.
This is the second time Hurst has been sentenced. In 2000, a jury decided 11-1 that Hurst deserved the death penalty.
Former Circuit Judge Joseph Tarbuck initially sentenced him to death for what he called an "especially heinous, atrocious and cruel" crime, explaining that Hurst murdered Harrison in an attempt to cover his tracks for robbing the restaurant.
However, that sentence was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court in 2009 because certain pieces of evidence, including those that established Hurst's mental capacity, were not shown to the jury during the penalty phase, said Assistant State Attorney John Molchan.
A new penalty phase was held over several days last year, and the jury decided 7-5 to recommend the death penalty. While the jury's recommendation is given consideration for Hurst's sentence, his fate ultimately lies in Nobles' hands.
Molchan said the defendant's attorney presented evidence showing that Hurst had a lower mental capacity during last year's penalty phase.
Todd Doss, Hurst's attorney, did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.