Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco man acquitted of murder in 2009 drug robbery

DADE CITY — One witness said he watched Anthony Harris kill Cleo Stinyard over drugs and cash.

Another witness said Harris was framed for the murder because he had snitched on drug dealers to the federal government.

Harris' first-degree murder trial this week consisted of conflicting accounts from witnesses mired in a world of crime and drug use — and a lack of forensic evidence tying Harris to the crime.

After deliberating about four hours Wednesday evening, a 12-member jury found the 24-year-old Harris not guilty.

"Thank you, Jesus," Harris said after the verdict was read.

Stinyard's family and friends gasped and cried.

The verdict was a rare setback for the State Attorney's Office in the Sixth Circuit, where acquittals in first-degree murder cases are virtually unheard of.

Prosecutors said Harris went into Stinyard's home, which had vast stockpiles of cocaine and cash, on June 12, 2009, and shot him in the chest and head. They put on witnesses Mendra and Jamar Hicks, who said Harris told them about his plan, saw him carry out the killing and then used some of the drugs with him immediately afterward.

"Mr. Harris went over there and he finished what he set out he was going to do. He murdered Cleo Stinyard," said Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia.

But Harris' attorney, Charles Lykes, presented two other witnesses who said the Hickses were framing Harris.

Willie Sims testified that the Hickses admitted as much to him.

Their reason?

"Because he was a federal snitch and he worked for the feds and he would have told on them just like he did Luc," Sims, currently a jail inmate, testified.

He was referring to Luc Pierre-Charles, convicted last year of killing two Wesley Chapel teens in 2006. Harris was working as an informer for the Drug Enforcement Administration at the time of the murders and testified that Pierre-Charles admitted the killings to him.

Lykes also held up to jurors a T-shirt from Stinyard's home that a DNA analyst tested. It contained several people's DNA — but not Harris'.

"This demonstrates a lack of evidence," Lykes said.

Stinyard, 48, had a lengthy arrest history. He spent a year in prison for aggravated battery in 1984. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years for cocaine possession in 1989 and another year in 1991. He was convicted of battery again in 2005.

In 2000, he was accused of exposing himself to a neighbor, then attacking police officers who responded to the call.

Harris still has pending charges of robbery and gun and drug charges. He returned to the Pasco County jail Wednesday night.

"Thank you, your honor, for a fair trial," he told Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Pasco man acquitted of murder in 2009 drug robbery 04/08/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2010 3:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated

    College

    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humilation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person

    College

    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry announced crowd of 24,325 at Raymond James Stadium.

    Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings