OKEECHOBEE — By a unanimous 7-0 vote, the Supreme Court of Florida has upheld a judge’s decision that Dale Middleton be put to death for the 2009 murder of Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Christensen.
The high court’s decision was released Thursday, Oct. 22.
Middleton, 42, was convicted Aug. 12, 2012, of killing the woman in her Pine Ridge Park mobile home then taking a 42-inch flat screen television she had won at a Golden Corral Christmas party.
The 12-member trial jury took less than 60 minutes to find Middleton guilty of first-degree murder, armed burglary and dealing in stolen property.
On Oct. 19, 2012, then-Circuit Court Judge Robert Belanger ruled Middleton should be put to death for his crimes.
Assistant State Attorney Ashley Albright, who prosecuted the case, said he was pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I was extremely happy with the ruling issued today by the Supreme Court, upholding both the conviction and the death sentence issued against Middleton,” he said. “This was a horrific crime that I have worked very hard to prosecute since the night of July 28, 2009.
“It was very personally rewarding to call Eric Christensen (Roberta’s husband) and hear the emotion and joy in his voice, having learned that Middleton will receive the death penalty,” added the prosecutor.
In his Feb. 6, 2014, address to the seven Supreme Court justices, Public Defender Jeffrey L. Anderson cited several points as to why Middleton’s sentence should be changed from death to life.
Among those points, he claimed, Middleton did not go to Mrs. Christensen’s home with the intent to kill her. He claimed that Judge Belanger was biased in his sentencing decision.
“He wasn’t necessarily using reasoned judgement. He didn’t give it a fair shot,” said Mr. Anderson of the judge’s sentencing.
On July 28, 2009, Middleton went to Mrs. Christensen’s home with the intention of borrowing some money. Her husband, Eric Christensen, was in New Jersey at the time.
When the Golden Corral server told Middleton she didn’t have any money, he didn’t believe her.
High on the methamphetamine he’d been smoking all day and the roxycodone pills he’d crushed and snorted, Middleton pulled a kitchen knife from his back pocket and attacked the 49-year-old woman.
As Mrs. Christensen fought for her life, Middleton continued to stab her as the struggle went from the kitchen, to the hallway and then to her bedroom. He stabbed her a total of 35 times.
Middleton then took the television and walked the 139 feet from the Christensen home to his. Later that evening he sold the TV for $200, and immediately bought more drugs.
In the high court’s ruling, the justices made note of some errors made at trial but described those mistakes as “harmless.”
In denying Middleton’s appeal, the justices wrote: “Here, sufficient evidence exists to support a conviction for premeditated first-degree murder and first-degree felony murder.
“There was sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the homicide with a premeditated design to effect the death of Mrs. Christensen,” they added.
Mr. Albright said Middleton will have to file his last standard appeal within two years of Oct. 22. That next appeal will be, in essence, that his lawyer was ineffective and will likely deal with some other collateral issues.
Middleton is currently housed in the Florida State Prison in Starke.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News