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Man sentenced in UF professor's murder

Published: Feb. 5, 2018 at 11:51 PM EST
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Nearly three years later, justice has been served in the case of a former University of Florida professor's murder. The professor's family was there Monday to watch it all unfold, and to speak to the killer face to face.

Stephen Underwood will spend 50 years in prison, indicted for the murder of Dr. Thomas Oakland.

Underwood refused to enter the courtroom for his sentencing Monday, unless TV20 stopped filming. We conceded so as not to impede court proceedings.

Underwood could not, however, stop a powerful victim impact statement from Oakland's son David.

"Mr. Underwood you robbed my family of my father," Oakland said. "My brother and I both dearly miss my father. We no longer get to hear his infectious laugh at the dinner table."

Underwood was defrauding Oakland for two years before the former University of Florida psychology professor reported him to Gainesville Police.

Underwood would go to Oakland's home in March of 2015 to confront the professor before beating him to death and burning his home.

"Mr. Underwood bludgeoned a defenseless 75-year-old gentleman. He beat to death the very man who had given him money, only hoping that it would turn his life around," Oakland said. "In cold blood, that coward, right there, murdered the man who had nothing but good intentions toward him."

Underwood refused to remove his hands from his eyes, even as Oakland forgave him for his father's murder.

"My goal was to make sure that this man could not be out in society again to harm somebody else," said Florida State Attorney Bill Cervone. "And I think with a 50-year sentence that the odds of that are so small as to be nonexistent."

Thomas Oakland was a professor of school psychology at the University of Florida's College of Education for 15 years before his retirement in 2010.

Through his career, Oakland provided testing for schools across developing nations. He also developed psychological tests and authored 12 books.

"You know my father's life will live on through all the people that he's touched," Oakland said. "So while he may be gone he's certainly not forgotten, and his legacy will continue to live on in so many different ways and in so many different lives. It's a symbol of a life well-lived."