TAMPA — Michael Daniel, 19, heard a knock. Knocks are never good at midnight. He was in his Brandon apartment with his girlfriend and his pal, Kyle Wolfman, 20.
Daniel looked out the peephole and saw two men he didn't know. He didn't answer. The knocking stopped but started again.
Daniel told his friend to get the shotgun. With Wolfman positioned behind him, Daniel opened the door.
In rushed the robber, pointing a pistol at Daniel's face.
Wolfman let loose with the shotgun, wounding the robber.
But, after six blasts, he had also killed his friend Daniel.
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The story of the accidental shooting of Michael Daniel on April 1, 2010, unfolded Friday — a year to the day of the robbery — in the courtroom of Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Manuel Lopez.
Michael Crossno, 21, the robber who came to Daniel's door, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony murder, punishable by life in prison, though he never fired a shot.
According to the prosecution, Crossno had heard from a mutual acquaintance that Daniel was selling marijuana out of the apartment and had cash. He went there with a juvenile accomplice who never got into the apartment and fled when the shotgun went off.
When deputies arrived, they found Daniel dead on the floor. They soon also found Crossno outside, bleeding from wounds, asking for medical help.
Wolfman told investigators he discharged the shotgun as his friend struggled with the robber. He fired trying to save his friend's life.
Deputies found the unfired semiautomatic pistol the robber had pointed at Daniel's head, as well as a bag Crossno brought along containing another handgun and plastic Zip Ties.
Crossno was charged with second-degree felony murder, because although he didn't kill Daniel, death was the result of the robbery. On Friday, he also pleaded guilty to armed burglary of a building with assault or battery, and attempted robbery with a firearm. The crimes could result in anything from 10 years in prison to life without parole.
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Daniel's family came to court with Wolfman's mother and Daniel's girlfriend, Samantha Quitsch, who now lives with his parents. The Daniels are originally from Britain, but they live in Brandon and own a construction business there.
Outside the courtroom, Daniel's father, Paul, asked, "Do you believe in the death penalty?" What if your child was killed in a robbery, he asked. How would you feel about the death penalty then?
Paul Daniel remembers Michael as a kid who was just fun. Michael worked for him. He thinks the robber was after his son's paycheck. He said he didn't believe the marijuana reference. "That was only alleged."
Paul Daniel said the family doesn't expect a life sentence for Crossno, although they would like to see it. They have pushed prosecutors for at least a 30-year term.
"His actions took someone I cared about so deeply away from me forever," said Quitsch, Daniel's girlfriend of four years. "He deserves to be put away."
They're fearful that Crossno will get the 10-year minimum. Just the notion of it brings tears and anger.
Judge Lopez didn't hint at what sentence he'll impose. He repeatedly asked Crossno if he understood he could go to prison for life by pleading guilty.
Crossno, burly with a hoarse voice, said he understood all that.
The Daniel family will have to come back. The judge set May 11 for sentencing.
As for Kyle, the friend who blasted the shotgun, Daniel's father said, "He's a good kid.
"He did what he had to do."