Posted: 6:41 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, 2011

Authorities: Paranoid-schizophrenic to defend self in murder trial

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SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. —

A paranoid-schizophrenic is being allowed to defend himself in a double murder trial, WFTV learned on Monday.

Bill Marquardt was found not guilty of murdering his mother in Wisconsin, but was later locked up in a mental institution for animal cruelty.

Between those two events, prosecutors said he killed two women in Sumter County.

Marquardt said he wanted the trial moved because he is very worried about media coverage of the murders.

He may face the death penalty, but 35-year-old Marquardt will defend himself against double murder charges.

"My name is Bill Marquardt.  I'm the defendant.  Good morning," he said in court.

With something of a smile on his face during most of Monday in Sumter County court, Marquardt played the role of attorney and questioned the potential jurors who would judge him.

"If anybody knows the victims, or anybody related to the victims, please raise your hand," he stated in court.

Marquardt is charged with the March 15, 2000 shooting and stabbing deaths of Margarita Ruiz and Esperanza Wells in their Tarrytown cottage.  Detectives said two days before, the defendant murdered his mother at their home in Wisconsin and then drove to Florida and randomly killed again.  

Though police said the knife belonging to Marquardt had his mother's blood on it, a Wisconsin jury found him not guilty. 

He wasn't connected to the Tarrytown murders until DNA samples were taken on two other blood stains on the knife. Tests eventually matched it to Ruiz and Wells. 

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino has prosecuted more than 100 murder cases.  When Marquardt was charged with the Tarrytown crime, he was doing 75 years in a Wisconsin mental health facility for mutilating animals. In that case, he was found guilty, but mentally ill.

However, he was still ruled competent to stand trial for the Tarrytown murders and act as his own lawyer.

Marquardt said he plans to call 35 witnesses, which is nearly twice as many as the prosecutors plan to call.

The judge said the trial could last more than a week.

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