Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Prosecuters still seek death penalty in retrial of Jabil executive

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LARGO — A 911 call captured the final moments of Elizabeth Evans and Gerald Taylor before they were shot to death on Dec. 20, 2008.

Someone told them to sit on a bed. They begged the intruder to put the gun down. And before shots rang out, Elizabeth Evans said the word "Rick."

That name, said Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Christopher LaBruzzo, is how Elizabeth Evans referred to her husband, Patrick Evans. He is charged with the murders of his wife and her friend.

"There's only one verdict in this case," LaBruzzo told the jury Thursday during opening statements in Evans' trial. "That's a verdict of guilty."

Evans, a former Jabil vice president, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders in 2012. But in 2015, the Florida Supreme Court overturned his convictions, citing errors in a detective's testimony and criticizing a prosecutor's remarks during the first trial.

Prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty.

LaBruzzo told the 12-member jury, plus two alternates, about the Evanses' strained relationship.

They were married in 2005 and were together for three years until they separated in 2008. Evans filed for divorce, but later dismissed his petition. Elizabeth Evans, 44, had also filed to end their marriage and moved into a condo at 6080 Gulfport Blvd. S in Gulfport.

On Dec. 20, 2008, she was playing golf with a co-worker, the 43-year-old Taylor. They went back to her place to drink wine and play music. Later that day, LaBruzzo said, Evans showed up and confronted them inside her bedroom.

Someone dialed 911, but hung up. When a dispatcher called back, the call was picked up and recorded the seconds before Elizabeth Evans and Taylor died.

Prosecutors will also present other evidence. A neighbor walking his dog saw Evans outside moments before the 911 call. Evans' gun holster was also found at the scene. Shell casings left in Elizabeth Evans' bedroom, LaBruzzo said, matched Evans' Glock handgun, which detectives found in his safe. People who knew the Evanses will also take the stand to identify the voices on the recording.

While LaBruzzo described the Evanses as "estranged," Assistant Public Defender Paige Parish said the couple was "amicably separated." Elizabeth Evans still spent time with her stepson. The Evanses had also seen each other shortly before the shooting, getting their cars washed together and meeting with a Realtor to discuss the sale of a property.

Parish also pointed to holes in the investigation, which she said was squarely focused on only Evans. Detectives never questioned Elizabeth Evans' ex-husbands or Taylor's wife, she added.

Investigators also found prints on Elizabeth Evans' back door and DNA on the gun holster that was never identified.

"The most amazing thing about the American criminal justice system is that we don't get to tell you what the answer is," Parish told the jury. "You get to decide."

The 911 recording was at the crux of Evans' appeal. In a 2015 opinion by the Florida Supreme Court, justices questioned Pinellas sheriff's Detective Edward Judy's testimony. On the stand, Judy said he believed the voice of the intruder was Evans because he had listened to his jail phone calls several times and was familiar with Evans' voice. The court ruled that Judy "did not have prior familiarity with Evans or special training in voice recognition."

The justices also flagged former Assistant State Attorney William Loughery. They took issue with some of his comments, including Loughery's remarks about the defense's theory, at one point saying "only in a world populated by defense attorneys would that be true."

Prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty. In Evans' first trial, jurors voted 9-3 in favor of the death penalty for the murder of Elizabeth Evans and 8-4 for the murder of Taylor.

But under the state's new death penalty law, juries must vote unanimously to send someone to death row.

The trial resumes today.

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