He recommended the death penalty for Florida man Joseph Zeller who killed a girl and a babysitter in 1990

A jury in southwest Florida has recommended the death penalty for a man convicted of killing an 11-year-old girl and her nanny more than 30 years ago. The recommendation came after a trial in which Joseph Zeller yelled at the jury and made obscene gestures while on the witness stand.

A 10 Lee County jury voted to die in favor of Zieler Wednesday night after about five hours of deliberation, according to court records. The same committee found Zeller, 60, guilty last week on two counts of first-degree murder.

The judge will make the final decision on whether Zeller is executed or spends the rest of his life in prison after the June 26 hearing. Florida law previously required a unanimous jury recommendation for a convicted murderer to face the death penalty, but a new law was signed into law last month by the state’s governor. Ron DeSantis It requires only 4-8 votes in favor of implementation.

Authorities said Zeller was jailed on an unrelated assault charge in 2016 when his DNA matched the cold case murders of Robin Cornell, 11, and Lisa Story, 32.

Officials said the girl and woman were found in a Cape Coral apartment in May 1990. Robin’s mother had been out all night and discovered the strangled bodies when she returned the next morning. Investigators said the two victims were sexually assaulted.

Cape Coral is located about 100 miles south of Tampa.

CBS affiliate WINK-TV reported that Zeller stunned the courtroom when he claimed he slept with Cornell’s mother a few months before the murder.

“I thought the only way my DNA could get there was to sleep with Jean Cornell,” he said. Then Cornell called the pig: “She calls me a rapist and a murderer, and I call her a pig because she doesn’t wash her sheets.”

WINK-TV too mentioned that Zeller yelled at the jury and made obscene gestures while standing on the stand.

“I mean, everyone’s talking about the finger,” Lee Hollander, his attorney, told me. “His behavior on the podium didn’t help. If you’re in a hole, stop digging. That’s what I wanted to say right then and there.”

Hollander continued, “I’m back behind the lawyer’s table. He’s sitting in the witness chair. And it was like I was sitting watching a train wreck.”

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