Published: Mar 27, 2014 11:45 AM EDT
Updated: Mar 28, 2014 12:03 AM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A jury has found Dustin Jaye guilty of First Degree Murder, burglary and animal cruelty.

It took them around 3 hours to come to the decision.

"I felt like I could breathe for the first time in 2 years. It was an overwhelming sense of joy that the man who committed the crime is going to pay."

Overcome with emotion, Debra Striano's niece Lindsey didn't want her face shown on camera.

She told WINK News about the loved one, Dustin Jaye is now convicted of killing.

"Debra Striano was the best aunt that I could ever ask for. She was my best friend and we called each other twins," said Lindsey.

Jaye slit Striano's throat inside her home on July 24th, 2012, during a burglary.

Prosecutors say money was the motive.

Striano's longtime boyfriend, Russell Myers, said he had thousands in the home. That money was never found.

"I hope where ever she is she is just happy that justice was served today."

The defense told WINK News they were surprised by the verdict.

They said the state never proved Dustin Jaye was in the Striano home, let alone the one who slit Debra's throat.

They say the evidence pointed to Jaye's uncle, Billy Ray Retherford, as the killer.

Retherford was killed in a shootout with police, shortly after the murder.

The state says the evidence showed his guilt.

That evidence included a pair of burnt sneakers hidden at the Jaye home, in an air vent.

The soles matched bloody footprints found at the scene.

Jaye's conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Jaye will be formally sentenced on May 19th.