Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Partin defense says landlord killed teen girl

Phillup Alan Partin’s attorneys begin their defense of him Friday. They looked to poke holes in much of the state’s evidence.

STEPHEN J. CODDINGTON | Times

Phillup Alan Partin’s attorneys begin their defense of him Friday. They looked to poke holes in much of the state’s evidence.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The path to reasonable doubt began Friday for the defense in the murder trial of Phillup Alan Partin.

The state already had a four-day head start: Eyewitness testimony identified Partin as the last one to see 16-year-old Joshan Ashbrook alive on July 31, 2002. Forensic evidence linked him to the runaway's brutalized body, found the next day. And Partin's own voice was caught on tape, sounding scared for his life while he evaded authorities for 13 months.

The state rested before lunch Friday. The defense began its case by trying to poke holes in forensic evidence, like whether tire tracks found near Joshan's body were mistakenly linked to Partin's old Ford pickup.

Jurors shook their heads and rubbed their eyes as sheriff's personnel were grilled over whether it rained the day the body was found or if they did a thorough-enough job looking for evidence.

But the defense promised a big finish Monday.

The stakes are high: Partin faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

So what will his defense be against all this evidence?

Someone else did it.

Associate Medical Examiner Noel Palma described Joshan's death to jurors this week.

The official cause of death: blunt trauma to the head and neck. But there were also defensive cuts on her hands. There were binding marks left on her neck, wrists and ankles. She suffered a brain hemorrhage from a powerful blow. There was a gaping cut across her throat. And her head and spine were separated.

"Could it have been caused by an accident?" asked Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis.

"No," Palma said.

Jurors also learned this week that DNA found on hairs embedded in Joshan's hand could statistically only have come from Partin. And they learned that Joshan's blood was found in Partin's old room, where he and the victim were last seen before her death.

While jurors were out of the courtroom, the defense shared its theory about the hair and blood evidence.

Partin's hair didn't end up on the victim because he killed her, goes the defense theory, but because she was killed in his room that contained his hair.

Joshan's killer must already have been in the house, the defense argued, so it must have been the landlord that Partin lived with back in 2002.

"It's not unreasonable that the hair could have ended up on her as she was being killed in that room," said lawyer Bjorn Brunvand, "unbeknownst to Mr. Partin."

The St. Petersburg Times is not identifying the landlord because he has not been charged with any crime.

But in their opening statement the defense vowed to call him as a witness. That could be Monday.

• • •

In a jailhouse letter mailed to the Times this week Partin mocked the agency that spent 13 months hunting him down: the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

Partin also mocked the troubled disciplinary record of one hunter: Deputy Scott Gattuso.

For some reason Gattuso has drawn Partin's ire. He had Gattuso's personnel record sent to him in jail, Partin said in his letter. The defendant even glared at the deputy as he testified against him this week.

But back in 2002, as Partin called Gattuso while on the run, the defendant displayed more fear than bravado in recorded calls played back for the jury this week.

"Just so you know," Partin said, "I'm scared you guys will throw down and shoot me."

In his calls Partin asked again and again why deputies were after him.

"I'll be honest with you," Gattuso said, "you're still our guy."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727)

869-6236.

Partin defense says landlord killed teen girl 03/14/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 9:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst

    Business

    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  2. A boat lays on its side off the shore of Sainte-Anne on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, early Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, after the passing of Hurricane Maria. [Dominique Chomereau-Lamotte | Associated Press]
  3. 7.1 magnitude quake kills at least 149, collapses buildings in Mexico

    World

    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico on Tuesday, killing at least 149 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

    A woman is lifted on a stretcher from of a building that collapsed during an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. [Rebecca Blackwell | Associated Press]
  4. FHP seeks semitrailer truck driver that left fiery wreck on I-75

    Accidents

    TAMPA — The Florida Highway Patrol is looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an Interstate 75 crash that left another car burning on Tuesday afternoon.

    Troopers were looking for the driver of a semitrailer truck that sped off from an accident scene on Interstate 75 in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon that caused a car to catch fire. [Courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol]
  5. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.