FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A life or death decision hangs in the balance as a Ft. Lauderdale judge holds a hearing on the sentencing of Randy Tundidor Sr. who was found guilty two years ago in the murder of Nova Southeastern University professor Joseph Morrissey in a landlord tenant dispute.
During the hearing, Tundidor’s attorney Richard Rosenbaum will bring up what could be considered mitigating circumstances which could sway the judge from the death penalty which was unanimously recommended by the jury. When Tunidor was on trial, he refused to let his attorney discuss any mitigating circumstances.
Tundidor Sr. was found guilty on all ten felony charges including first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and arson. His son, Randy Tundidor Jr., pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder to avoid the death penalty. Tundidor Jr. was sentenced to 40 years in state prison.
At the start of Monday’s hearing, Morrissey’s widow talked about the horrifying night she, her husband and their child were taken hostage in the Plantation home in April, 2010.
“The malice and hate he showed towards our family,” said Morrissey who added that night still haunts her and her son. “My little boy and I do not feel safe in our own home because we think the boogy man will come back to finish the job.”
During Tundidor Sr.’s trial his son testified that it all started when his dad called him and asked if he knew anyone that could scare his landlord, Morrissey, because he was being evicted. Tundidor Jr. said he would do it.
Tundidor Jr. testified that he tied up Morrissey and his wife Linda, spoke to his father by walkie-talkie, and was told to search for anything of value. He also said he had on latex gloves and had a gun but told his dad he wasn’t going to shoot anybody.
When asked why they used walkie-talkies, he said it was because his dad told him “If they used a cell phone, they could be tracked.” He also said he covered the Morrisseys’ heads with towels, “because he didn’t want them to see his dad because he knew they would recognize him.”
During the crime, the Morrisseys were forced at gunpoint to drive to an ATM and withdraw cash. When they arrived back at the Morrisseys’ Plantation home, Tundidor Jr. testified that he tied them up again with plastic ties and covered their heads with towels. He claimed his dad tried to find more stuff to steal. They found two laptops and he gave his dad the $500 cash from the ATM.
At this point, with the Morriseys tied up in the bedroom, Tundidor Jr. said he wanted to leave. His dad refused and reportedly said Joseph Morrissey “has to die.”
The younger Tundidor claimed his dad ordered him to retrieve Morrissey from the bedroom. The son testified his father put the gun to Morrisey’s head, but that it jammed. Tundidor Sr. then grabbed a knife and stabbed Morrissey twice, according to the son’s testimony.
The son said Tundidor Sr. poured gas around the living room and kitchen and lit it on fire.
Kay Morrissey said she and her son were able to escape after the Tunidors ran away.
“The only reason Patrick and I survived is because the fire alarm goes off and Tunidor ran like a rat, out of the house, showing once again his cowardly nature,” Morrissey told the judge.
To this day, Tunidor claims he’s innocent. In court Rosenbaum read a letter that Tundidor Sr. wrote to the judge which said in part that he played no part in Morrissey’s murder.
“I asked no one to harm Mr. Morrissey,” Rosenbaum said as he read from the letter, “I did not kill Mr. Morrissey nor did I play a role in any crimes against the Morrissey fmaily. Under no circumstance is it in me to hurt a woman or a child, it’s not in me.”
Kay Morrissey was not touched or moved.
“I am not going to ask the Lord to have pity on your soul because that is between you and the Lord. If I was speaking to someone it would be to the people in jail to make sure that you make amends because you are a coward. They need to know you left me and my five year old boy in a burning home that you ignited,” said Morrissey. “Sir, now you go on and have a good life.”
The hearing is expected to last two days.