Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 18, 1995
Date of arrest: September 14, 1995
Date of birth: September 6, 1977
Victim profile: Richard Menendez, 64
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Hillsborough County, Florida , USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on December 19, 1996

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Lolita Barthel was a few weeks from turning 18 when she shot and killed Temple Terrace floral supply salesman Richard Menendez, 64, in August 1995, during a robbery as the victim begged for his life.


When life means life

By Curtis Krueger - St. Petersburg Times

June 3, 2001

Lolita Barthel

On the second day of her senior year at Tampa Bay Tech, Lolita Barthel was arrested in the principal's office.

The police said that she and two friends forced their way into the home of Richard Menendez, a 64-year-old traveling salesman. One of the friends, given a deal for her testimony, said they had robbed other elderly people without incident, but Menendez went for the gun, which Barthel held. She quoted Barthel: "Don't nobody put their hands on me. I'm going to smoke you." Barthel denies it.

Convicted of robbery and murder, she says her mind was such a mix of fog and fear that she doesn't even remember the judge telling her she would never get out of prison.

She did not really grasp her sentence until she entered Jefferson Correctional Institution near Tallahassee and looked around.

"The older people walking around with canes and stuff. They been locked up since they were 16 and now they're near 70. That's when it really hits you. Then you be like, well, that's me."

An older inmate asked what she was looking at. Lolita told her: "Don't take it personal, ma'am, I just can't believe it."

She was 17 at the time of her arrest, 19 when she reached prison. Now she's 23. "How do you cope? To me, I don't cope. You know how you can have an issue, but put it like in the back of your mind, or you block it out and you try to believe something totally different? That's what I do. That's what keeps my sanity."

Well-meaning friends approach her mother, Loretha Barthel, and ask how she's getting by. "I think I'm still in shock. After all these years, I still don't believe it."

Both still pray for a miracle. In the meantime, they keep up traditions as best they can. At home in Tampa, Lolita would buy her mother a watch every Christmas. Now in a prison near Miami, she combs magazines at Christmastime until she finds a picture of a watch. She clips it out and mails it home.

In 1999, her mother made a rare visit and they shared a prison Christmas. Dinner came from the canteen. One of Mom's presents was an unopened pack of cigarettes.

Mother and daughter posed for a photo in front of a Christmas tree. Lolita, dressed in prison blues, handed her mother an empty box that was wrapped to look like a present.



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