Lester Ross sentencing verdict expected Friday

A Polk County man was convicted Thursday of killing his daughter and her mother in 2009, following about eight hours of deliberations.

Lester Ross was accused of killing his 3-year-old daughter, MaSarah Ross, then hiding her body in a freezer. Investigators said when MaSarah's mother, Ronkeya Holmes, came looking for her, Lester Ross poisoned her, then buried both bodies in a shallow grave in an orange grove.

Following the verdicts, the trial immediately entered the sentencing phase. Several of the victims' loved ones had statements read to the jury about how the killings have impacted them; two of Holmes' family members took the stand.

"I didn't just lose my baby, I lost my best friend," said Edith Fletcher, Holmes' mother. "She'll always be my daughter, but there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of her."

Holmes' teenage daughter, who was nine years old at the time of her mother's death, told jurors, "She was a smart, talented and loving person. Losing her was like losing a part of me."

Prosecutors hope the testimonies will be enough to convince jurors to recommend the death penalty.

The defense countered with one of Ross' sons, who told jurors he wants his father to still be around when he has children of his own.

Ross will have the chance to take the stand in the sentencing phase before closing statements are made. Jurors will be asked to recommend life in prison or death.