STUART, Fla. - At 3 p.m. today the jury recommended the death sentence for Ricky Silva.
Silva, convicted by a Martin County jury last week of first-degree murder, sat Monday with his back to two men he robbed at knifepoint in 2007, and when one called him a monster, the 32-year-old never flinched.
Jurors reconvened Monday to hear evidence and argument before rendering an advisory opinion as to whether Silva will serve a life sentence without parole or die for the October 2009 murder of his Martin Correctional Institution cellmate Terry Bell.
Walter Dodson told jurors Silva approached him outside a South Florida convenience store in May 2007 and asked for a cigarette.
"I was going to give him a half pack because he looked like he was homeless and down and out," Dodson told jurors.
The next thing he knew, Silva had a large knife against his ribs demanding his wallet and car and acting "like an absolute monster," Dodson said.
In the early hours of May 4, 2007, Silva bound Fort Lauderdale resident Steven Casalegno with computer cord and held him at knife point while ransacking Casalegno's apartment and later forced Casalegno to drive to an ATM where Silva emptied the bank accont.
"If I didn't cooperate, he said he would kill," Casalegno told jurors.
Silva turned his chair away from the witness stand and made no eye contact with either of the state's witnesses Monday.
While prosecutors portrayed Silva as a cold, violent sociopath, defense lawyers told jurors their client deserved mercy because of a stark and unstable childhood filled with abuse and abandonment.
Silva's sister, Tracy Veinlith, who said she has not seen her brother since he was 18, told jurors Silva's childhood was nothing more than a string of foster placements and institutions after the two were abused by and taken from their mother's custody.
"Mom beat the boys unmercifully, in my opinion," Veinlith said.
As an infant, Silva's mother would mix beer in his baby formula to quiet him and stop him from screaming.
A defense psychiatric expert said scans of Silva's brain were abnormal and consistent with someone who suffered from brain injury or psychotic disorder.
"My brother will always be my brother," Veinlith said. "And though his life gives him no excuse to harm another being, as his sister I must give him unconditional love, something he's not gotten his entire life."