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Man found not guilty in St. Petersburg AK-47 murder case

LARGO — In a brutal crime that has been compared to the movie Scarface, someone used an AK-47 assault rifle to shoot a St. Petersburg woman in 2008, hitting her nine times and killing her.

A jury decided Thursday that Deangelo Hutchinson was not guilty in the killing of Angela Burgess beside Lake Maggiore.

It was a rare not guilty verdict in a first-degree murder case. Some senior attorneys could not remember the last time that happened in Pinellas County.

Hutchinson, 30, wearing a brown suit, clapped his hands in celebration after the jury found him not guilty of murdering Burgess and not guilty of attempting to murder a man named Willie Edwards. Hutchinson hugged one of his attorneys, and his friends and family shouted with joy.

But it was a somber walk out of the courthouse for four friends and family members of Burgess, who were escorted by sheriff's deputies.

Although he was found not guilty, Hutchinson remained in the Pinellas County Jail without bail on other charges, including violating his probation on a previous drug possession charge. He also is still charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and with driving with a suspended license in connection with the murder case.

Hutchinson's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender John Swisher, said he doesn't think the firearms charge will stick.

Swisher, who tried the case along with Jane McNeill, asked Circuit Judge Cynthia Newton to set a bail amount for Hutchinson in those cases, but she did not do so Thursday.

Swisher said he thinks prosecutors and St. Petersburg police got the wrong man in the murder case, and he hopes Hutchinson can be released before long.

Prosecutors were stoic about the results. "That's why we have our system of justice," Assistant State Attorney David Tobiassen said.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said acquittals are rare in first-degree murder cases because they normally involve extensive investigations, and "jurors tend to take the loss of life very seriously."

"They're not unknown, but they're infrequent," Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger said. He said Swisher and McNeill "worked very hard. They're two very good lawyers."

Attorneys on both sides knew the state's case had problems because it relied heavily on the testimony of a man with 10 previous felonies who initially denied knowing who fired the shots. A trial last year ended in a hung jury.

The shooting occurred in May 2008 after Burgess, 32, got a call from Willie Edwards, who was fishing at a favorite spot on Lake Maggiore in St. Petersburg. Edwards asked whether Burgess could bring him an alcoholic drink. It was after hours, but she asked Hutchinson whether he could help her. So Hutchinson bought drinks for her at an after-hours club and then drove her to the fishing spot.

Prosecutors suggested that Hutchinson got angry because Burgess decided to stay by the lake with Edwards instead of remaining with him.

They said Hutchinson later returned with the AK-47 — which was never recovered — and fired at both Burgess and Edwards. Edwards said he was hit in the leg but got away by jumping into the lake with bullets flying overhead.

But when Edwards was first interviewed by police, he denied knowing who had shot at him and Burgess — and he denied it two more times after that. He later said it was Hutchinson.

Swisher hammered away at that point, saying in closing arguments that Hutchinson "did not return to the lake; he did not shoot anybody."

A hearing has been scheduled for April 23 on Hutchinson's other cases.

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

Man found not guilty in St. Petersburg AK-47 murder case 04/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 16, 2010 12:23am]

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