New County Judge Named
by Gary Sprott - Tampa Tribune - August 8, 2002

TAMPA - Michelle Peden, a former state prosecutor who helped win a murder conviction against notorious rapist and killer Lawrence Singleton, was appointed to the Hillsborough County bench Thursday.

Peden, 35, replaces Denise Pomponio, who was appointed to a vacancy on the Hillsborough circuit bench.

``It just seemed the next step to take in my career,'' said Peden, who spent six years with the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office before joining the Tampa law firm of Trombley & Hanes in 1998.

Gov. Jeb Bush selected Peden from among six finalists for the vacancy.

She is a graduate of Plant High School, Vanderbilt University and the University of Florida College of Law.

For four years, Peden has defended clients in white- collar criminal and civil cases. As a county judge, she could preside over misdemeanor criminal, domestic violence and small claims cases. Peden hopes to start hearing cases by mid-September.

In 1998, Peden helped prosecute Singleton for the 1997 murder of Roxanne Hayes of Tampa. Singleton made headlines 20 years before when he raped a teenage hitchhiker in California and chopped off her arms with an ax.

Singleton, 74, died of cancer in December while on death row for murdering Hayes.

Peden's former supervisor Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner described her as ``very bright, very articulate and very poised.''

``She was a great prosecutor,'' said Pruner, who also worked the Singleton case.

County judges serve six- year terms. However, Peden must run for election in 2004 because she was appointed to the bench.

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Updated 12/11/2003