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Accused murderer gets another trial delay

Photo: Asbury Lee Perkins in court.

Asbury Lee Perkins, who has thus far avoided going to trial to face charges of premeditated murder in the 2015 shooting death of his estranged wife at a house in South Beach, has found yet another way to delay facing a jury.

This time Perkins, who has been deemed indigent, convinced the court to pay for a new specialist, Sheila Rapa, a Fort Lauderdale psychotherapist who will receive $200 an hour to aid in Perkins’ insanity defense, according to court documents filed by Perkins’ court-appointed attorney, Valerie Masters.

Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn on July 9 also approved a request by Masters to postpone the case until at least September 18, so she can continue to work on Perkins’ defense.

Perkins, 61, was arrested Nov. 4, 2015 and charged with the shooting death of Cynthia Betts, 63, at her home on Seagrape Drive near The Moorings. Deputies said at the time that Perkins – who had rolled his wife’s body up in a rug – admitted to killing her because she nagged him and took money out of a bank account. But he later pled not guilty and has been housed at the Indian River County jail since his arrest.

Rapa, who has already been paid $3,000, according to court documents, is the latest in a long line of specialists that Perkins has been allowed to hire at taxpayer expense. Those specialists have included a hypnotist and videographer, multiple private detective firms, psychologists, and ballistic and forensic experts.

He has also been assisted by numerous court-appointed attorneys during the past five years whom he has routinely fired for various reasons. After dismissing an attorney, Perkins typically spends varying lengths of time representing or demanding to represent himself before requesting a new attorney. Each new attorney then asks for more time to review the ever-more-complex case and prepare a defense.

Florida taxpayers have so far had to cough up more than $173,000 to pay for Perkins’ defense, a tally that does not include state-paid attorney fees, which are hard to tabulate, according to court records and invoice statements from Florida Justice Administrative Commission.

Judge Vaughn cannot legally comment on a case that he is presiding over, but other judges and attorneys say Vaughn is in a difficult situation because if he doesn’t allow Perkins’ access to the experts he requests, the wily defendant can claim he was denied a fair trial.

Perkins’ shenanigans have also included filing an astounding 266 motions, which has slowed his case and added to the cost of trying him – even though the vast majority of his motions have been denied and deemed nonsensical.