Death sentence changed to life in double-killing

Formerly sentenced to death for the killing of a Merritt Island couple nearly two decades ago, Anthony Welch was re-sentenced to three life terms in prison Thursday.

Welch, now 40, was 22 when on Dec. 14, 2000, he used a souvenir samurai sword to stab and hack his two neighbors to death before going on a date. He murdered Suntree couple 69-year-old Rufus Johnson and 60-year-old Kyoko Johnson while they were celebrating Kyoko’s birthday at the couple’s North Courtenay Parkway home.  According to reports, Welch tied up the couple, tried to extort money, tortured and killed them.

An extortion note with his fingerprint was found in Kyoko’s pocket by investigators. 

Welch pleaded guilty in 2005 to the double murder and was sentenced to death in 2006. The sentence was overturned on appeal in 2008. Welch had been waiting for his re-sentencing trial ever since.

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The Florida Supreme Court issued new guidelines in late 2016 requiring a unanimous jury recommendation for a death sentence. They were implemented prior to Welch’s penalty phase hearing that began March 4.

The new guidelines meant Welch was spared the death sentence when the Brevard County jury came back split Thursday evening. 

Welch will now serve three consecutive life terms in state prison





Contact Vazquez at, 321-917-7491 or on Twitter @tyler_vazquez. 

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