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A Florida man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for beating a man to death with a baseball bat at a construction site, in a case that was once thought to have gone cold.
Randy Petersilge, 55, was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Simon Clarke earlier this month and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole nearly 21 years after Clarke was brutally beaten to death in 2001, according to a statement from the New Port Richey Police Department.
Police cited the “persistence and tenacity” of the department’s detectives for finally closing the case after more than two decades.
Clarke was found dead with “injuries to his head and chest” on Nov. 28, 2001 inside a home under construction at 4725 Sanctuary Drive.
The medical examiner would later determine that Clarke—a 41-year-old father—had died from “multiple bunt force trauma” injuries.
Detectives later found the baseball bat believed to have killed Clark but got no conclusive leads from a forensic analysis of the weapon, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
New Port Richey Det. Joe Ioppolo told Oxygen.com in 2019 shortly after Petersilge’s arrest that authorities had quickly identified him as a possible suspect in the crime.
“He was a person of interest at the time, but they couldn’t close the deal,” Ioppolo said.
Without enough evidence to go on, police said the case went cold in 2004 until detectives reopened the investigation in 2016.
By that time, witnesses were “willing to provide additional details on their recollection of events” including one witness who had been at the scene of the crime.
The witness told police he had been “living with the memories of the incident since its occurrence” and was finally willing to come forward with what he knew, according to court documents obtained by the local paper.
The witness told police that he had initially been afraid to come forward because Petersilge had forced him to strike the victim with the bat too so that he could never testify against him. A second witness corroborated the account.
Witnesses said Clarke was killed as part of a dispute over money. Clarke—a married father of two—had gone to the residence on behalf of a friend, who had hired a general contractor to construct the home, according to the court records, also obtained by Law & Crime. The friend was in Europe at the time but had learned from an engineer that the contractor had charged him more than $300,000 for only about $120,000 of work.
Clarke was asked to go to the property to tell the contractor that his friend didn’t plan to pay any more money, but Petersilge flew into a rage and beat Clarke to death.
Investigators later learned that the contractor had allegedly been defrauding Clarke’s friend to purchase narcotics. Petersilge also had a past of drug-related offenses.
The new witness testimony was enough to arrest Petersilge, who was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder in 2018.
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