A former medical examiner was convicted Friday of killing his wife with a lethal injection nearly 10 years ago, a crime he allegedly covered up by having her embalmed before an autopsy could be performed.
Dr. William Sybers, 68, could be sentenced to death or to life in prison. The penalty phase of the trial begins Wednesday.
"We're obviously disappointed, but that's the way it goes," defense lawyer John Daniel said. "We've got to start getting ready for the penalty phase now, working on that and seeing if we can save what's left of this man's life."
In closing arguments, prosecutor Harry Shorstein said Sybers killed his wife so he could marry his mistress, which he did in 1994, and avoid losing at least half of $6 million in joint assets through a divorce.
The retired pathologist was accused of killing Kay Sybers, 52, on May 30, 1991, at their Panama City Beach home. He declined to order an autopsy, saying he was abiding by her wishes.
Dr. Terrance Steiner, then a medical examiner in St. Augustine who once worked for Sybers, called the governor's and state attorney's offices to urge that an autopsy be performed.
Sybers relented, but the autopsy turned up no cause of death. It did disclose a couple needle marks, which Sybers told investigators resulted from him trying to take a blood sample from his wife after she complained of chest pains.
The autopsy finding was eventually changed to homicide after a new testing procedure in 1999 turned up traces of succinyl monocholine--a derivative of succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant used in surgery.
The chemical usually dissolves quickly in the body, but it was preserved in Kay Sybers' case by the embalming, prosecutors said.
The defense said she died of natural causes and fought unsuccessfully to have the test results barred from trial. Daniel said the prosecution's case was riddled with reasonable doubt because of conflicting evidence.