Treasure Coast killer now off death row

Treasure Coast killer now off death row

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Renee Mancini still showed the hurt as she addressed a judge Wednesday morning, standing just a few feet from the man who killed her fiancee in 2005.

"I can not suppress the hate I have for this murderer. He will never have my forgiveness.  We had purchased a beautiful home and were planning our wedding and dreaming of having children," Mancini said as she read her victim statement.

In the pre-dawn hours of February 1, 2005, 32-year-old Danny DeStefano was delivering newspapers to convenience stores along Avenue D in Fort Pierce, when he was shot over $10 by Steven Hayward.

A jury convicted Hayward, out of prison less than three months on a previous murder conviction, of the killing, and a judge sentenced him to death.

But Wednesday, Hayward got a sentencing do-over under new state guidelines, because the jury did not unanimously recommend the death penalty.

It is a case where even the lead prosecutor apologized to the victim's family over the slow pace of the criminal justice system.

"I can't give them any confidence that the system will serve them in the future," said Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl.

Bakkedahl said while he would have sought the death penalty again, it was taken off the table at the request of the Distefano family.

Hayward was resentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

"At the conclusion of a case, people are supposed to go on with their lives yet here we are dragging them back into court and essentially traumatizing them over and over again," said Bakkedahl.

It was an imperfect form of closure for a family hoping their loved one's killer never gets out of prison.

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