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Tommy Wyatt: Death row inmate dies in prison 25 years after Vero Beach Domino's pizza shop murders

4:37 PM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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VERO BEACH - One of Indian River County's most notorious murderers, Tommy Wyatt, 49, has died in state prison of undisclosed causes while on Death Row, officials said Tuesday.

In 1988 he and his companion's cross-state crime spree - that attracted national attention - ended in the deaths of four people, including three during a robbery-rape in a downtown Domino's Pizza. The three, including a husband and wife, were from Fort Pierce.

At the time of his death on Friday, Wyatt's attorneys were still appealing his case to the federal courts, the last resort in a lengthy appeal that has extended from circuit court to the Florida Supreme Court.

The death - that the state Department of Corrections listed on its website - "saves taxpayers a lot of money," said his former prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Butler.

On Monday, Butler learned of the death from the Florida Attorney General's office. He said they didn't have any details.

Because of federal health privacy laws, the DOC doesn't release Wyatt's medical records. Usually an autopsy is performed - as was the case in the last Indian River County convicted murderer to die in state custody before finishing his sentence.

In 2010 a bespeckled 210-pound Jim Chandler died of medical complications, according to reports.

About 30 years before that he used a baseball bat to bludgeon to death two Sebastian retirees, Harold Steinberger, 76, and his wife Rachel, 73, who had moved to the city a month before to escape crime in South Florida.

Their beaten and stabbed bodies were found behind their home.

Wyatt's crimes started when he and Michael Lovette run away from a North Carolina prison roadwork crew and ended up in Florida and Vero Beach. In the pizza store, three employees were shot in the head. That was after, according to court records, Wyatt raped the wife in front of her husband.

Current Indian River County Judge David Morgan was a prosecutor in that case.

The conviction "was a bittersweet feeling," he said when asked about Wyatt's death. "It doesn't seem like justice when I reflect on the mayhem he did.

"The Dominos killing were enough. But what really got me" was the murder of Kathy Nydegger, a 26-year-old Tampa-area mother of an 8-year-old child. She met Wyatt in a bar where they played a coin-operated crane machine for getting stuffed toys.

Her body was found tossed along State Road 60 west of Vero Beach.

Wyatt called her "nothing but an ol' bar fly," showing what Morgan said was no regard for life. "That is how he rationalized it (the killing)."

Lovette remains in state prison, serving 10 life sentences for murder, robbery and kidnapping.

NBC News Channel

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