Florida man avoids death penalty for killing his ex-girlfriend and her unborn child

The Florida man who killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her unborn child, and who allegedly killed a police officer during the ensuing manhunt, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday.

Lt. Debra Clayton

A Florida jury unanimously voted not to recommend the death penalty for Markeith Loyd. He was convicted last week of first-degree murder, first-degree murder of an unborn child and attempted first-degree murder, along with two counts of attempted felony murder.

The question of whether Loyd would get the death penalty had led to a contentious legal and political fight in the state. Before the trial started, then-Gov. Rick Scott removed the elected Florida state attorney from Loyd’s case after she said she wouldn’t seek the death penalty in his or any cases.

State attorney Aramis Ayala had argued that evidence showed the death penalty was overly expensive, slow, inhumane and did not increase public safety. Ayala said after “extensive and painstaking thought and consideration,” she determined that pursing the death penalty “is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice.”

She sued Scott over her reassignment, and the legal disagreement reached the state Supreme Court. The court ruled that Scott was within his right to reassign the cases.

Related: Man found guilty of all charges in deadly 2017 Pasquotank Co. prison attack 

Loyd was on trial for killing Sade Dixon and her unborn child in December 2016 and sparking a massive manhunt.

While on the run, he allegedly killed Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton in January 2017 outside a Walmart, police said.

Loyd was arrested days later in an abandoned home dressed in body armor and carrying two handguns, police said. In video after the arrest, Loyd’s face appears to be swollen and bruised, and he said: “They beat me up! They beat me up!” as he walked past reporters.

The defense argued Dixon was reaching for a gun before Loyd started shooting, CNN affiliate WFTS reported. Loyd’s actions leading up to the shooting were evidence of premeditation, prosecutors argued.

Loyd still faces first-degree murder charges in Clayton’s killing. Clayton, 42, was a master sergeant in the police department at the time of her death; she was posthumously promoted to lieutenant.

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