Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Plea deal rejected, jury selected in Hernando murder trial of Stanley Eckard

BROOKSVILLE — Before the bailiff brought in the men and women who might decide Stanley Eckard's fate, the judge made sure the defendant knew the stakes.

Hernando County Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti reminded Eckard on Monday morning that a first-degree murder charge comes with only two possible sentences if he is convicted. Since prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty, that leaves one: life in prison without parole.

"Do you understand that?" Tatti asked.

Sitting at the defense table dressed in a navy blue suit, Eckard nodded once.

"Yes, sir," he replied.

By 5 p.m., attorneys had selected a panel of 12 jurors plus two alternates to decide if Eckard intentionally killed his younger brother, Sean, on June 19, 2010.

Prosecutors say Stanley Eckard planned the killing when he broke into his brother's bedroom, then buried him in the yard of the Spring Hill home the men shared with their parents.

First thing Monday, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino asked Tatti to have Eckard state for the record that he was rejecting the state's plea offer. Had Eckard entered an open guilty plea to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, his prison sentence would have been capped at 20 years.

Among the nine women and three men selected Monday are a grocery store cashier, a mechanic, two assistant principals, a restaurant manager, a bank manager, a graphic artist and a secretary.

Magrino told Tatti he will need two days to present the state's case. The trial is expected to conclude by Friday.

"From an evidentiary perspective, it's really simple," Magrino said.

Magrino is expected to point to statements Stanley Eckard made after his arrest indicating simmering resentment of Sean and tension over a woman.

According to court documents, Eckard said he wrapped an elastic cord around Sean's neck during the struggle but didn't mean to kill him. Eckard said they fell to the floor and he heard Sean's neck pop and felt his body go limp.

Eckard has admitted that he then hoisted his brother's body out the window and buried him in a shallow grave in the side yard. Samuel Eckard, the young men's father, found Sean's body two days later.

The medical examiner concluded he had died from a fracture to the back of his skull, broken vertebrae or both.

Acknowledging their son's mistake in trying to hide Sean's death, Samuel and Donna Eckard say they are convinced he is telling the truth, and they have criticized prosecutors for pursuing a murder charge.

The Eckards say they believe Stanley went into the room to talk about Sean's girlfriend, an argument turned physical, and Stanley had to defend himself.

Some of the questions chief assistant public defender Alan Fanter posed Monday to prospective jurors hinted at a defense strategy. He asked if they knew anyone who took medication for mental health issues, and if they thought people could act differently under extreme stress.

Eckard turned 24 on Monday. Before the proceedings began, his mother sat in the second row of the gallery and whispered the song Happy Birthday.

At the end of the day, Eckard turned to his family, smiled and gave a thumbs-up sign.

"Drive safe, guys," he said.

Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

 
Comments
Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team what's the statistic to watch in tonight's Game 7 of the Lightning-Capitals series (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Here's their answers. Share yours in the comments section below:Martin Fennelly, columnist:&#...
Updated: 1 hour ago
At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

At Bay 3, developers of Tampa’s Armature Works transform old industrial space into new co-work offices

TAMPA — The name of the new Bay 3 co-working space at the Armature Works goes back to World War I, when the red-brick warehouse overlooking the Hillsborough River was the maintenance barn for Tampa Electric’s streetcar system.As the name suggests, it...
Updated: 2 hours ago
FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

FDLE: Victim in $480,000 scam is heiress to Wrigley gum fortune

A woman state authorities say was scammed out of $480,000 by two of her employees is an heiress to the Wrigley chewing gum fortune.The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that the victim in the case is Helen Rich, 69, formerly Hel...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The Daystarter: All on the line for Lightning; Wrigley gum heiress is scammed; booze at the Magic Kingdom; Kendrick Lamar review

The Daystarter: All on the line for Lightning; Wrigley gum heiress is scammed; booze at the Magic Kingdom; Kendrick Lamar review

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• The forecast calls for partly sunny weather with scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms mainly in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. The chance of rain is...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Who is the most compelling personality in Lightning-Capitals Game 7?We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for their answer. Who's yours? Please share in the comments section and feel free to take issue with our answers.JOIN the Lightning Strike...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes

Shopping Tampa for Ukraine commandos: Bomb-sniffers, drones and laser-proof sniper scopes

TAMPA — Like a homeowner combing Home Depot for his latest project, Roman Mashovets spent a good part of Tuesday wandering the floor at the Tampa Convention Center.But instead of nails and plywood, Mashovets — a former Ukraine special operations forc...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Britain’s iconic red phone boxes make comeback; Duterte tells Philippine drug suspects to ‘stay in jail’ to live longer; more in world news

Britain’s iconic red phone boxes make comeback; Duterte tells Philippine drug suspects to ‘stay in jail’ to live longer; more in world news

Philippine prez to drug suspects"You want to live longer? Stay in jail."President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines told drug suspects in a central province Tuesday in his latest televised threats in his bloody anti-drug crackdown. But jails aren’t ...
Published: 05/23/18
Amid gravestones, one man channels pain into reverence

Amid gravestones, one man channels pain into reverence

TAMPA - In Woodlawn Cemetery, just north of downtown, Andrew Lumish knelt in front of a headstone. He scrubbed mold and mildew off the front with a soft brush, leaving his hands covered in a green sludge.He would rinse and repeat the process until th...
Published: 05/23/18
Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

Carlton: Lowering the American flag for the newly dead at school — again

In a scene repeated at public buildings across the country, the American flag in front of the library outside my office window was lowered to half-staff this week.This time for 10 dead in Texas.In February, the American flag was similarly half-staff ...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass?You need police to protect those folks...
Published: 05/23/18