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George Michael HODGES





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The victim filed a criminal complaint against Hodges charging him with for indecent exposure
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 8, 1987
Date of arrest: February 1989
Date of birth: August 15, 1957
Victim profile: Betty Ricks, 20 (convenience store clerk)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Hillsborough County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on August 10, 1989

The United States Court of Appeals
For the Eleventh Circuit

opinion 07-11943


Florida Supreme Court

opinion 74671 A

opinion 74671 B

opinion SC01-1718


DC# 117157
DOB:  08/15/57

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, Hillsborough County Case # 89-2165
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable John Griffin
Attorneys, Trial: John Conrad & Daniel Perry – Assistant Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Paul Helm – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal (on remand): Douglas Connor – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Linda McDermott – Private

Date of Offense: 01/08/87

Date of Sentence: 08/10/89

Circumstances of the Offense:

In November of 1986, Hodges was arrested on charges of indecent exposure based on the report filed by a 20-year-old convenience store clerk, Betty Ricks. 

At 6 a.m. on January 8, 1987, Ricks was found in the store’s parking lot lying next to her car.  Her body was found the same day that Hodges was scheduled for a criminal diversion program arbitration hearing as a result of the report filed by Ricks.  Ricks had been shot twice and subsequently died the next day without regaining consciousness.

The department store, where Hodges worked on the maintenance crew, was located across the street from the convenience store.  A coworker reported to police that at 5:40 a.m. on the day of the shooting, she saw Hodges’ truck at the convenience store; however, Hodges reported that since he did not have to be at work that day, he was at home sleeping. 

His wife and her son, Jesse Watson, initially supported his alibi.  A rifle was confiscated from the Hodges’ home, but ended up not being the murder weapon.  The investigation returned to Hodges as the prime suspect, and he was arrested for the murder in February of 1989.

The testimony of both Hodges’ ex-wife and his stepson, Watson, was different than that originally given.  Watson reported at trial that he and Hodges had identical rifles and that the police in reality had taken Watson’s rifle, not Hodges’.  Watson also said that before 6 a.m. on the morning of the murder, he was awakened by Hodges’ truck.  Watson then said that Hodges entered the kitchen with his rifle.  Furthermore, Watson reported that he saw the rifle wrapped in plastic in the back of Hodges truck, and there was a hole in the ground close to the tool shed.  Watson finally testified that Hodges admitted to him, several months later, that he had indeed shot the convenience store clerk.

Trial Summary:

02/22/89          Defendant indicted with the following:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

07/14/89          Defendant was found guilty by the trial jury

07/14/89          The jury recommended Death by a vote of ten to two

08/10/89          Defendant was sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death  

Case Information:

A Direct Appeal was filed on 08/23/89. Issues that were raised included whether the trial court erred in admitting what should have been inadmissible hearsay regarding what the victim thought and said about prosecuting Hodges; whether the trial court erred in continuing with the proceedings after Hodges’ suicide attempt instead of stopping for a competency hearing. 

The Florida Supreme Court found all of these claims either without merit or harmless and affirmed the conviction and sentence of death on 01/23/92.

A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed on 07/20/92 and granted based on Espinoza v. Florida on 10/05/92.  The case was remanded to the Florida Supreme court and Hodges’ Direct Appeal was reopened.  In Espinoza, the court found the former standard instruction on the heinous, atrocious, or cruel aggravator inadequate; however, in Hodges, that aggravator did not play a part in the sentencing.

The Florida Supreme Court reaffirmed the conviction and sentence of Death on 04/15/93.

A Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed on 09/07/93 and denied on 11/29/93.

A 3.850 motion was filed with the circuit court on 06/23/95 and denied on 06/01/01.

A 3.850 Appeal 08/06/01 was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 08/06/01, and the denial of the 3.850 was affirmed on 06/19/03.  On 10/14/04, the FSC issued a revised opinion, again affirming the denial of the 3.850 Motion. 

A Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus was filed with Florida Supreme Court on 04/22/02 and was denied on 06/19/03.  On 10/14/04, the FSC issued a revised opinion, again denying the Habeas Petition.

A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on 03/04/05 that was denied on 06/23/05.

A Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was filed with the U.S. District Court, Middle District, on 01/04/06 that is pending.


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