Two decades after double murder, Steven Lorenzo pleads guilty in Tampa court, asks judge for death penalty

After fighting his murder case for years, 63-year-old Steven Lorenzo, the man accused of drugging, torturing and killing two gay men in Tampa almost 20 years ago, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. 

Lorenzo was convicted in 2005 of drugging and raping several men, including two named Jason Galehouse and Michael Waccholtz, who both vanished in separate nights in Tampa in Dec. 2003.

He is currently serving a 200-year federal prison sentence, which is why he's now asking for the death penalty after submitting an open plea to the court Tuesday, Dec. 6. 

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"Everybody is born with a death sentence in this room. Everyone is on death row, we’re all going to go sometime," Lorenzo said in court Tuesday. 

Tampa Judge Christopher Sabella said he might get his wish. "I will absolutely not hesitate to sentencing you to death," the judge said. 

Lorenzo sent a handwritten letter from jail to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court of Hillsborough County before Thanksgiving. In it, he said he wants to plead guilty, have a judge sentence him to death and waive his right to appeal.

His only explanation for the change of mind is that he believes "the end results will prove to be identical" regardless of a trial.

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But for more than a decade, Lorenzo denied killing Galehouse and Waccholtz. He even called the state of Florida’s death penalty "childish and ridiculous" in December of last year.

Now, he claims he’s planned to plead guilty all along, but wanted to fully review his case first. Lorenzo reiterated his wishes to a judge in a hearing on Friday. Dec. 2. 

Jason Galehouse and Michael Waccholtz

Friends and supporters of the victims, including Galehouse’s friend, Tyler Butler, and president of Tampa Pride, Carrie Weset, listened from the stands but say they don’t trust his intentions.

"He's surprising even the judge," West stressed. "We have to still go through the whole process, which he could have done 18 years ago, 19 years ago, and everything's been postponed. You know, this community has been disrupted by his antics. And that's the way I have to say it."

Galehouse and Wachholtz disappeared in December 2003, and friends of the victims pushed for police to investigate. Eventually, that investigation led to the arrest of Lorenzo and another man, Scott Schweickert, who was convicted in a federal court for drugging the men.

However, Schweickert and Lorenzo weren’t immediately charged with murder. That changed in 2012 when prosecutors said the pair drugged, tortured and killed the men before placing their body parts in dumpsters.

Lorenzo claimed during his plea Tuesday that two other men where involved in crime, but when Judge Sabella inquired who the men were, Lorenzo had no answer. 

"I don’t know their names Because after this happened they split," said Lorenzo. 

Lorenzo also stunned the courtroom when he explained why Galehouse was killed. He said Galehouse was doing drugs with the men. He agreed to participate in group sex and have it recorded on video. 

He said, at one point, things got rough and out of hand during a sexual encounter with Schweickert. 

Lorenzo, Schweickert and the two other men feared Galehouse would go to the police. 

"We realized the kid was probably going to call the police on us, so we had a pow wow, and we said this kid can’t leave, he’s going to identify all four of us. So that’s why the decision was made, " said Lorenzo. 

Pictured: Steven Lorenzo and Scott Schweickert 

In 2016, Schwickert confessed to the murders and agreed to testify against Lorenzo.

In a response to Lorenzo’s latest request, prosecutors wrote that they’re fine with it, as long as his decision is made "knowingly and intelligently."

Lorenzo insists on representing himself without an appointed attorney even after being advised against it by a standby counsel. 

Before the plea hearing wrapped up, Judge Sabella scheduled the penalty phase of the case for February 2023. 

Prosecutors announced they plan to call to the stand, three surviving victims of Lorenzo who escaped his attack decades ago. After the testimony from the state and Lorenzo is over, the judge will hand down his sentence.