Terrance Joseph Hurst, 34, of Ocala, faces two counts of first-degree murder for the 2016 deaths of Robert Schwamberger, 81, and Ruth Schwamberger, 77.

Defense attorneys in a death penalty trial originally set to start in August were granted more time Thursday to prepare for the possible penalty phase.

Terrance Joseph Hurst, 34, of Ocala, faces two counts of first-degree murder for the 2016 deaths of Robert Schwamberger, 81, and Ruth Schwamberger, 77. He will go to trial in February 2019 to allow time for his defense attorneys to fully prepare for a possible penalty phase, 5th Circuit Judge Jonathan Ohlman ordered.

Death penalty cases have two phases: guilt and penalty. In the guilt phase, a jury of 12 will decide whether Hurst is guilty of first-degree murder. If Hurst is found guilty as charged, that same jury of 12 will then decide in the penalty phase whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. A vote for death must be unanimous.

In a motion for continuance filed June 10, defense attorney Michael Neilsen did not explain why he asked for the continuance. He stated there also were pre-trial motions and hearings that need to be held before the guilt phase begins. He did not further elaborate at a Thursday status conference.

State and defense attorneys said the trial should last two weeks in total.

Hurst is accused of killing the Schwambergers in April 2016. Police believe he killed Robert Schwamberger first, then concealed his body and told Ruth Schwamberger he was at the hospital. Hurst allegedly killed Ruth a few days later. Their bodies were found May 1. Both suffered blunt force trauma to the head.

Police believe Hurst had a drug habit and killed the couple for money. He and his girlfriend lived with them at the time, according to police. He was indicted in June 2016.

Hurst is one of four Marion County defendants facing the death penalty.

Contact Katie Pohlman at 867-4065, katie.pohlman@starbanner.com or @katie_pohlman.