Pasco Man on Death Row to be Set Free
A 55-year-old man on death row for the murder of a Pasco County waitress will soon walk free.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that there wasn't enough evidence to convict Derral Hodgkins for the 2006 murder of 46-year-old Teresa Lodge.
Lodge was found dead in her Land O'Lakes apartment.
She had been beaten, strangled and stabbed multiple times.
Hodgkins' skin was found under her fingernails, but investigators didn't find a weapon or other evidence that placed Hodgkins at the scene.
The court said the skin found raises suspicion, but it wasn't enough to convict Hodgkins.
The two dated years earlier and Hodgkins said they remained close.
He told investigators they had sex about three days before the murder and Lodge dug her nails into his back during the act.
At the time of Lodge's death, Hodgkins was serving lifetime probation for the 1987 attempted murder, kidnapping and sexual battery of a 12-year-old girl. He had admitted driving the girl to a remote area, beating her, ripping off her clothes, trying to have sex with her and then running her over with his car.
Hodgkins served 17 years in prison for those crimes.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who was not sheriff when the crime or trial took place, disagreed with the Court's decision.
"It is disappointing that the Supreme Court did not respect the findings of the trial court or Pasco jury," Nocco said in a statement Thursday. "This Supreme Court has set a dangerous precedent and has let a violent felon free."