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Updated: Sentencing phase to begin in daycare homicide

By Staff | Dec 1, 2012

The sentencing phase for a Cape Coral man will begin Monday after he was convicted this week in the 2008 shooting death of his wife at a day care.

A 12-member jury found Robert Harold Dunn, 48, of 626 S.E. 10th Ave., guilty on Tuesday of first-degree murder in the death of Christine Dunn, as well as first-degree burglary while armed with a firearm and child abuse.

Jurors deliberated for three hours before coming to a verdict.

“He was found guilty,” Samantha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney’s Office, confirmed Wednesday. “Guilty as charged.”

The state is seeking the death sentence for Dunn.

“This case has always been a death penalty case,” she said.

Syoen declined to comment further, stating that it is an open case.

Attorneys David Brener and Tracey Redd are representing Dunn.

“In cases like this, you always hope the jury will find the defendant guilty of a lesser crime so that the death penalty is taken off the table,” Brener said.

He believes his client was disappointed by the conviction.

“But not surprised,” Brener said. “I think he has started to come to accept responsibility for his actions and the lives that he changed on that day.”

On Jan. 25, Dunn broke into the locked back entrance to Bobbie Noonan’s Child Care Facility, at 1217 Cape Coral Parkway W., and shot his estranged wife twice – once in the side of the neck and a second time in the chest.

Christine Dunn was a teacher at the facility. She and other teachers hid inside bathrooms with the children as Dunn broke into the center with a gun in hand. He shot his wife in one of the bathrooms in front of some youths.

None of the children or other adults were injured in the incident.

A parent at the facility eventually wrestled the gun away from Dunn.

On Monday, the prosecution and defense will present their arguments concerning an appropriate sentence. The jury will then provide the presiding judge – Lee Circuit Judge Margaret Steinbeck – with a recommendation.

“The judge has to give the jury’s recommendation great weight and deference,” Brener said.

“I can’t predict what the jury is going to recommend,” he said.

While the guilty conviction required an unanimous vote by the jurors, the sentencing recommendation does not. Seven out of the 12 can recommend the death penalty, and six out of 12 jurors are needed to recommend life.

As lead counsel for the sentencing phase, Brener will attempt to persuade the jury to spare his client’s life.

He declined to get more into specifics.

“We’ve maintained all along Mr. Dunn has suffered from a longstanding mental illness,” Brener said.

He expects the sentencing phase to last a couple of days.

The family of Christine Dunn could not be reached for comment.