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Double-murder suspect seeks a low profile

LARGO — Patrick A. Evans lived the life of a high-profile corporate executive with a six-figure salary, a Corvette, a private plane and overseas assignments.

But now that he is awaiting trial in a double homicide, Evans' attorneys are trying to create a much lower profile for the former Jabil Circuit vice president.

They are asking a judge to keep secret some of the evidence against Evans, especially the contents of a 911 call related to the shooting deaths of his estranged wife, Elizabeth K. Evans, 44, and her friend Jerry B. Taylor, 43. Both were shot once in the neck at Elizabeth Evans' Gulfport condo on Dec. 20.

Patrick Evans, 41, was arrested on first-degree murder charges the next day.

The Pinellas Sheriff's Office has refused to discuss the contents of the 911 call. But one of Evans' neighbors has said investigators told her the shootings were captured on the call.

Elizabeth Evans "never hung up the phone," said Meredith Hochstetter, who lives near Patrick Evans' million-dollar waterfront home in St. Pete Beach. "(The tape) was still going when it happened."

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley seemed surprised by the attorneys' request to seal evidence, including a document that outlines what authorities collected during a search warrant in the case.

"Why is this different from any other case other than you're telling me your client wouldn't like the public to know?" Ley asked during a hearing on Thursday.

Attorney Frank McDermott said he is trying to make sure his client gets a fair trial. He doesn't want potential jurors to hear allegations that could influence their opinion outside of the courthouse.

"Why would we possibly want to bend the rules and handle this case in a way that's different than the other cases that I've worked so hard over my career to make sure that they were fair?" the judge said.

Although trials are sometimes moved when extensive media coverage threatens to make it impossible to find an impartial jury, Ley said that she has never had such a case in her 30 years of working as an attorney and judge.

Ley did not rule on the request, instead setting a hearing for Monday to further discuss the issue.

McDermott was so concerned about publicity that he asked that Monday's hearing be held in camera, meaning away from public view. Ley questioned that, too, saying there was no obvious reason for secrecy now that the search has been completed. She said Monday's hearing would be open to the public.

Also on Thursday, McDermott asked the judge to allow his client to wear suits to pretrial hearings.

Ley said Evans will be allowed to dress up at trial, but that she won't put jail employees through having to arrange for a different set of clothes for pretrial hearings.

Evans attended Thursday's hearing in standard-issue jail clothing; a set of navy blue scrubs with a beige stripe, and simple black sandals. He has been held in the Pinellas County Jail without bond since his Dec. 21 arrest.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at ckrueger@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8232.

Double-murder suspect seeks a low profile 01/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 5:14pm]
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