Florida Man Gets Death Sentence for 1986 Murders of Sharp County Couple

ASH FLAT, AR - A Florida man convicted of capital murder in the New Year's Eve 1986 slayings of an Ash Flat couple has been sentenced to die by injection.

Jurors at Ash Flat took about an hour yesterday to decide on the death penalty for 56-year-old Steven Wertz of Kissimmee, Florida.  On Wednesday, they had deliberated about 40 minutes before returning verdicts of guilty on both counts of murder he faced.  Jurors could have sentenced Wertz to life without parole, the only other penalty for capital murder under Arkansas law.

After the sentence was pronounced Thursday, Wertz announced to the courtroom: "I did not do this."

Wertz was accused in the 1986 shooting deaths of Terry and Kathy Watts, who were found dead at their home.  Police say the couple were killed in front of their infant son as the result of a custody dispute involving the 5-year-old daughter of Terry Watts.  At the time of the Watts' slayings, Wertz was married to the girl's mother, and they were living at Cushing, Oklahoma.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)