October 08, 2006

"Woman Recants Testimony in Murder Case"

February 10, 2004
Section: Local State
Page: 3B

Mike Hoyem
News-Press Fort Myers

Woman recants testimony from murder trial
BY MIKE HOYEM mhoyem@news-press.com

A woman who helped put Cary Michael Lambrix on death row for two murders recanted her testimony Monday, saying she lied to jurors because she was scared by investigators.

"You all scare people into saying what you want," Deborah Hanzel said of investigators in the 21-year-old case. "You shouldn't scare people like that."

Hanzel, 51, of Thonotosassa, testified during Lambrix's 1984 trial that Lambrix admitted killing Alisha Bryant, 19, of LaBelle, and Clarence Edward Moore, 35, of Key Largo.

But she told Lee Circuit Judge R. Thomas Corbin she agreed to lie about the case - while Lambrix was still being sought in the case - because investigators said Lambrix might try to kill her and her children.

"Now I am telling the truth," she said. "I'm sorry that it happened the way it happened."

Lambrix, 43, was sentenced to death in March 1984 for luring the pair to his trailer in Glades County on Feb. 6, 1983, and killing them. He claims Hanzel's recantation helps prove he was "an easy target" for investigators who pinned the murders on him in part because he was "an unemployed carnival worker."

But on cross-examination, Hanzel couldn't recall what she said six weeks ago in a sworn affidavit. And she admitted many things she told jurors were true - including how Lambrix said he could show her the bodies and how he drove Moore's Cadillac after the killings, wore new clothes and flashed money.

Corbin, who has heard Lambrix's appeals for years, didn't appear impressed.

"I'm not setting any dates" for further hearings, he said, adding he'll consider the testimony and issue an order. Lambrix's public defenders, Silvia Gonzalez and Dan Hallenberg, are hoping to win Lambrix a new trial.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Randall B. McGruther - who prosecuted Lambrix - and Assistant Florida Attorney General Carol Dittmar oppose the request. Investigators say Lambrix and his girlfriend, Francis Smith, met Bryant and Moore at a LaBelle bar and invited them to the trailer for a spaghetti dinner. Lambrix then asked Moore to go outside and then beat him to death with a tire iron, investigators say. He then asked Bryant outside and killed Bryant, who also may have been sexually assaulted. After Smith was caught in Moore's car, she told investigators Lambrix forced her to help bury the two and led investigators to their shallow graves.

Hanzel testified Monday she never talked directly with Lambrix about the murders.

She said Smith asked her to help bolster her story because Smith feared Lambrix would kill her if he was not put in prison.

She also said Smith told her Lambrix hit Moore because of something involving Bryant.

Lambrix claimed in 1988 - after winning a stay of execution - that he struck Moore because Moore was attacking Bryant.

"I was forced to take a human life in self-defense," he said.

Hanzel said she kept the lies secret for decades until her conscience made her tell the truth.

"It made me feel guilty," she said. "Wouldn't that weigh on your mind, something like that?"

McGruther declined comment after the hearing.

Hallenberg vowed to keep pressing for a new trial.

"What we're trying to do is get that evidence heard," Hallenberg said. "We're going to corroborate the fact that Ms. Hanzel conspired with Ms. Smith to basically lie at trial."


Sentenced to death in 1984