PUNTA GORDA — Prosecutors won’t seek the death penalty for either suspect charged with the 2001 murder of 19-year-old Tara Sidarovich.
Phillip Barr, 43, who is charged with first-degree murder, was arraigned Friday before 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Amy Hawthorne at the Charlotte County Justice Center, where Barr’s attorney, Mark DeSisto, submitted a plea of not guilty.
Assistant State Attorney Randall McGruther, with the office of 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Stephen Russell, confirmed prosecutors will not be seeking the death penalty in the case.
“I don’t know their reasoning for not seeking the death penalty,” DeSisto said. “However there is certain criteria that they look for in a case — it is a significant penalty and, upon review, I didn’t think they would go that way.”
Earlier this week, prosecutors also said they would not seek the death penalty for David Ray McMannis, 39, who also faces a charge of first-degree murder in connection with Sidarovich’s death.
Sidarovich’s mother, Sharon McPhillips, said she would be satisfied if the two suspects receive life in prison.
“It means they will be locked away and won’t be able to kiss their nieces and nephews, just like Tara can no longer kiss hers,” McPhillips said with emotion. “I don’t know how the legal system works, but I think life in prison would be valid payment for the crime that they did.”
Assistant State Attorney Shannon Doolity, who heads up the Charlotte County branch of the State Attorney’s Office, said a review committee examined both cases individually and made the decision.
Also at the hearing Wednesday, defense attorney Russell Kirshy issued a plea of not guilty for Barr’s former girlfriend, Linda Faye Dille, 46. She was charged in November with two counts of felony perjury after investigators said she lied about cellphone calls between her and Barr on the day of Sidarovich’s disappearance. Dille was not present in court; she is currently free on $5,000 bond. Her next court appearance is set for Feb. 28.
Authorities say McMannis and Barr were the last people to see the Sidarovich alive when they went to her family’s Westwood Drive home in Punta Gorda to give an estimate for septic repair work. They allegedly kidnapped Sidarovich, killed her and disposed of her body in a wooded area east of Burnt Store Road. Both men originally were considered suspects in the crime, but were not charged until late 2012.
Barr will have to appear before the judge again May 20 for a case-management hearing.
Hawthorne set Dille’s next court appearance for Feb. 28.
McMannis is being held at the Lee County Jail, and Barr is being held at the Charlotte County Jail. A court bailiff said earlier this week that the defense did not want the two men held at the same facility.