BROOKSVILLE — Jesse Robert Daily sat hunched in a corner of the courtroom, long brown locks hiding his thin, gaunt face as he scanned a document that would send him to prison for much of his adult life.
Daily was nine days shy of legal adulthood last December when, prosecutors say, he plunged a knife into the chest of his mother's live-in boyfriend. Charged as an adult with second-degree murder, Daily was now about to make a very grown-up decision.
Moments later, he stood in front of Hernando County Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti and pleaded no contest to the charge. If convicted at trial, he faced up to life in prison. As part of an agreement with prosecutors, his sentence will be capped at 35 years. A sentencing hearing is set for Dec. 9.
Assistant Public Defender David Bauer told Tatti that Daily is taking medication for "significant" mental health issues but has been evaluated by a doctor and deemed competent.
"Do you fully understand what's going on and what you are doing by entering a plea in this case?" Tatti asked.
"Yes," Daily, 18, replied softly.
Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto recounted what happened the afternoon of Dec. 9, a Sunday, at the little white house on Hayes Street in Spring Hill.
Daily and 39-year-old David Floyd got into an argument, and Daily punched Floyd in the face. Floyd told Daily to take a walk to cool off. While he was gone, Floyd decided to call the Sheriff's Office.
When Daily returned and found out deputies were on the way, he grabbed two kitchen knifes and charged at Floyd, who grabbed a chair to defend himself. When the chair got knocked from Floyd's hands, Daily stabbed him in the chest. The blade penetrated his heart, and he died later that day at Oak Hill Hospital.
Daily was arrested and charged with first-degree murder about eight hours after the stabbing. Prosecutors decided there wasn't enough evidence to support the first-degree charge and opted to charge Daily with second-degree murder.
Four days later, he was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center, where he remains.
State records show that Daily had never been arrested before the stabbing. The Sheriff's Office had not been called to the house in the two years before Floyd's death.
Daily briefly attended Springstead High School as a ninth-grader between August and October 2009 and was a homeschool student after that, a school official said.
Daily's mother, Judy Daily, began a relationship with Floyd in 2010, according to her Facebook page. The day before Floyd's death marked two years together.
Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected].com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.