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Thomas Anthony WYATT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Rape - Kidnapping
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: May 17/19, 1988
Date of birth: January 6, 1964
Victims profile: William Edwards, Frances Edwards and Michael Bornoosh (restaurant employees) / Cathy Nydegger
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Indian River County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on February 22, 1991, and December 20, 1991. Died in prison on February 8, 2013
 
 

 

Florida Supreme Court

 

opinion 77666

opinion 79245

 
 

 
 

DC# 121892
DOB: 01/06/64 

Nineteenth Judicial Circuit, Indian River County, Case #88-748-CF-A
Change of Venue to Sarasota County (Counts I-III & V-XV)
Change of Venue to Pinellas County (Count IV)
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable John G. Ferris
Attorneys, Trial (Counts I-III & V-XV): 
Ernon Sidaway & Diamond Horne - Special Appointed Public Defenders
Attorneys, Trial (Count IV): 
Ernon Sidaway & Diamond Horne - Special Appointed Public Defenders
Attorney, Direct Appeal (Counts I-III & V-XV):
Gary Caldwell - Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal (Count IV): 
Gary Caldwell - Assistant Public Defender
Attorneys, Collateral Appeals:  Leor Veleanu & Lucrecia Diaz – CCRC-S

Date of Offenses: 05/17/88 - 05/19/88

Date of Sentences: 02/22/91 - 12/20/91

Circumstances of Offense:

On May 13, 1988, Thomas Anthony Wyatt and Michael Lovette escaped from a prison work crew in North Carolina and fled to Florida.  In Jacksonville, Florida, they stole a car from a used car dealership and drove to Vero Beach.  Inside the stolen car, Wyatt and Lovette found a .38 caliber handgun. 

On May 17, 1988, the two men checked into a hotel under assumed names and called their families in North Carolina.  The two men began drinking at a local bar, where they again made collect calls to their families.  After leaving the bar, the two men stopped at a Domino’s Pizza restaurant to commit a robbery.    

Upon entering the restaurant, Wyatt instructed delivery driver Matthew Bornoosh to remove his work shirt and give it to Lovette.  Lovette put on the shirt, disguising himself as an employee, so any passersby would not become suspicious.  Wyatt ushered two of the employees, Frances Edwards and Michael Bornoosh, into the bathroom.  He took the manager, William Edwards (Frances’ husband), into the office to open the time-delayed safe. 

After obtaining the money from the safe, Wyatt raped Frances Edwards and shot all three employees.  Medical examiners reports indicated that each of the three victims had been fatally shot and that the seminal fluid found in the Frances Edwards’ body matched DNA samples taken from Thomas Wyatt. 

Following the Domino’s robbery, Wyatt and Lovette drove west.  Before reaching Tampa, the car they had stolen overheated.  Wyatt and Lovette set the car on fire and hitched a ride to Tampa.   

While drinking at a bar in Tampa, Wyatt met the fourth victim, Cathy Nydegger.  Towards the end of the night, Wyatt and Nydegger were seen leaving the bar together. Shortly after they left, Wyatt returned to the bar.  He spoke to Lovette briefly and then both men left the bar. 

The following day Cathy Nydegger’s body was found along the side of a road in Indian River County.  She had been fatally shot in the head. 

Wyatt then checked into a motel in Clearwater using an alias.  He was driving Nydegger’s car.  While at the motel, Wyatt met Freddie Fox.  Wyatt gave Fox his gun and some bullets.  Ballistics reports indicated that the gun given to Fox matched the rifling characteristics of the gun and bullets used to kill Nydegger. 

Michael Lovette returned to Statesville, North Carolina, where he surrendered to the police.  Lovette confessed to police his part in the crime spree, telling police that he was not the trigger man in any of the murders.

Tommy Wyatt was arrested in South Carolina on an unrelated charge.  While in jail, Wyatt confessed to the murders to inmate Patrick McCoombs.  At trial, McCoombs testified against Wyatt.

Codefendant Information:

The state charged Michael Lovette with four counts of First-Degree Premeditated Murder, Sexual Battery, three counts of Kidnapping, two counts of Robbery with a Firearm, three counts of Grand Theft, Arson, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. The court severed the Nydegger murder and the firearm possession. Lovette received three death sentences.  In his Direct Appeal, the Florida Supreme Court vacated the death sentences and the conviction for Sexual Battery.  The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the remaining convictions and remanded the case to the trial court for a new sentencing proceeding.   Michael Lovette was resentenced to life on the murder convictions and is currently serving 11 life sentences at Okaloosa Correctional Institution.

*****

Trial Summary:

05/10/89          Indicted on the following charges:

Count I: First-Degree Murder (Frances Edwards)
Count II: First-Degree Murder (William Edwards)
Count III: First-Degree Murder (Matthew Bornoosh)
Count IV: First-Degree Murder (Cathy Nydegger)         
Count V: Sexual Battery (Frances Edwards)
Count VI: Kidnapping (Frances Edwards)
Count VII: Kidnapping (Williams Edwards)
Count VIII: Kidnapping (Matthew Bornoosh)
Count IX: Robbery with a Firearm
Count X: Robbery with a Firearm
Count XI: Grand Theft Adjudication Deferred
Count XII: Grand Theft Auto
Count XIII: Grand Theft Firearm
Count XIV: Second-Degree Arson
Count XV: Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon Charge Nolle Prossed

01/29/91          Wyatt was found guilty on charges I-III, V-X, XII-XIV.

01/31/91          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 12 to 0 majority, voted for the imposition of the death penalty on Counts I-III.

02/22/91          Wyatt was sentenced as followed:

Count I: First-Degree Murder - Death
Count II: First-Degree Murder - Death
Count III: First-Degree Murder - Death
Count V: Sexual Battery - Life
Count VI: Kidnapping - Life
Count VII: Kidnapping - Life
Count VIII: Kidnapping - Life
Count IX: Robbery with a Firearm - Life
Count X: Robbery with a Firearm – Life
Count XII: Grand Theft Auto – 5 Years
Count XIII: Grand Theft Firearm – 5 Years
Count XIV: Second-Degree Arson – 15 Years

11/26/91          Wyatt was found guilty on Count IV.

12/03/91          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the imposition of the death penalty for the murder of Cathy Nydegger.

12/20/91          Wyatt was sentenced as followed:

Count IV: First-Degree Murder - Death

*****

Case Information:

On 04/01/91, Thomas Wyatt filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court pertaining to his death sentences for the “Domino’s” murders.  In that appeal, he argued that the trial court committed reversible error during voir dire by mentioning the Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon charge, which had been severed from the trial.  Wyatt also contended that evidence that he was an escaped convict and evidence that he had committed other crimes was improperly admitted.  The Florida Supreme Court found no merit to Wyatt’s claims of error during the guilt phase.  Regarding the penalty phase, Wyatt claimed that the trial court erred in failing to grant his motion for a continuance in order to secure his mother’s testimony in mitigation.  The record shows that the defense was prepared to call more than 12 witnesses to testify in mitigation, but that Wyatt expressed that he did not want any witnesses called.  It was only the night before the sentencing proceedings that Wyatt requested the testimony of his mother, who he knew would be unavailable.  The Florida Supreme Court noted, as indicated by the trial court record, that Wyatt effectively waived presentation of mitigating evidence.  Wyatt also argued the consideration and application of aggravating factors. 

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Wyatt’s convictions and death sentences on 09/08/94.  Wyatt then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 05/05/95.

On 01/17/92, Wyatt filed another Direct Appeal pertaining to the Nydegger murder.  In that appeal, he argued that the trial court erred in allowing admission of certain character evidence and in allowing admission of improper comments made by the prosecutor during closing arguments.  In regard to the penalty phase of the trial, Wyatt argued the consideration and application of several aggravating and mitigating circumstances.  The Florida Supreme Court agreed that the “avoid arrest” and cold, calculated and premeditated (CCP) aggravating factors were not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  The court found these errors to be harmless in lieu of the significance of the other valid aggravating evidence in Wyatt’s case.  Additionally, Wyatt claimed error in the penalty phase instructions and the presentation of improper hearsay testimony. 

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed Wyatt’s conviction and sentence of death for the murder of Cathy Nydegger on 05/05/94.   Wyatt then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on 03/20/95.

On 03/17/97, Wyatt filed a 3.850 Motion in the State Circuit Court pertaining to all four of his murder convictions.  The motion was amended on 11/30/99. 

On 09/08/00, an Interlocutory Appeal was filed in the Florida Supreme Court.  By 12/01, the court reached a decision to quash the trial court’s order granting the State’s motion for an in-camera hearing and to allow CCRC-N to withdraw as counsel due to conflict.  CCRC-S was then appointed as counsel.  Following the issuance of the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion, jurisdiction over Wyatt’s 3.850 Motion returned to the State Circuit Court and is currently pending final resolution.

FloridaCapitalCases.state.fl.us



Thomas Anthony Wyatt

 

 

 
 
 
 
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