Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 18, 1996
Date of birth: May 10, 1962
Victim profile: Laura Romines
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Pasco County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 2, 2001

Florida Supreme Court

opinion SC01-2759

DC#  527097
DOB:  05/10/62

Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pasco County Case # 97-482
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Maynard Swanson, Jr.
Attorney, Trial: Bill Eble – Court-Appointed
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Robert Moeller – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Mina Morgan – CCRC-M

Date of Offense: 08/18/96

Date of Sentence: 11/02/01

Circumstances of Offense:

In August of 1996, Laura Romines was living with her boyfriend, Joe Galbert, in a Motel 6 in Land O’Lakes, Florida. 

Police were called to the Motel 6 in response to a domestic battery call in which Galbert beat up Romines and dropped a bed on her head.  A security guard at the motel, Stephen Kirk, tried to get Romines into a shelter, but was unsuccessful.  He then invited her to stay with him and his roommate.

On 08/17/96, after two weeks at Kirk’s apartment, Romines was asked to leave.  Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies were called to Kirk’s apartment to escort Romines from the apartment, and when they arrived, they tried unsuccessfully to get Romines into a shelter. 

One of the deputies drove Romines to a 7-11 convenience store in Hillsborough County and dropped her off at approximately 7:30 or 8:00 p.m.  At the time, Romines had a laundry basket and about seven or eight plastic garbage bags full of her belongings.

Michael Fitzpatrick worked for Pro Pizza and was making deliveries on the night of 08/17/96.  After one delivery, he returned and told the owners that he picked up a young lady at a 7-11 store and took her to the Sunny Palms Motel. 

Around 9:30 p.m., one of the owners was making a delivery, saw Fitzpatrick at the Sunny Palms Motel, and told him to get back to work.  Fitzpatrick left work around 11:45 p.m. and took a pizza with him.

Witnesses at the Sunny Palms Motel saw Fitzpatrick drop Romines off at the motel.  Romines told one of the motel’s residents that she was looking for a place to stay and Romines was referred to A.J. Howard, who frequently allowed young women to stay at his house.  Romines went to Howard’s house and was later picked up by Fitzpatrick when he left work.

In the early morning hours of 08/18/96, a nude Romines was seen standing on the side of a road, covered in blood – the result of a slit throat.  Romines was airlifted to a hospital, but later died on 09/05/96.  Medical examiners determined the cause of death to be hemorrhaging and aspiration of blood due to an incised wound of the neck that penetrated the larynx and esophagus. 

Due to witness sightings of Fitzpatrick with Romines on the night of 08/17/96, police began to focus on Fitzpatrick as the primary suspect.  Fitzpatrick was asked to submit a blood sample for analysis.  Fitzpatrick’s DNA profile matched DNA evidence, including semen and bodily fluids, taken from a rape kit administered to Romines at the hospital.   

Additional Information:

Fitzpatrick’s first trial resulted in a mistrial. 

Prior Incarceration History in the State of Florida.

Trial Summary:

02/07/97          Indicted as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

Count II:          Sexual Battery

03/30/01          Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment

04/05/01          Jury recommended death by a vote of 10-2

11/02/01          Sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

12/21/01          Sentenced as follows:

Count II:          Sexual Battery – 30 years

Case Information:

Fitzpatrick filed a Direct Appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on 12/10/01, citing the following errors: denying motions for acquittal, denying a motion to suppress statements made to detectives, denying a motion to suppress DNA results, permitting the State to introduce detective testimony, denying a motion to suppress identifications, excluding critical defense evidence, committing errors leading to an unreliable sentence, relying on an unconstitutional death penalty statute, and failing to use a sentencing guidelines score sheet for the Sexual Battery conviction. 

On 01/27/05, the FSC affirmed the murder conviction and sentence.

Fitzpatrick filed a 3.851 Motion with the Circuit Court on 06/30/06 that is pending.



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