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Prosecution rests in Robert Jardin's double murder trial

BROOKSVILLE — Robert Jardin repeatedly pounded his fist into his hand. He feverishly squeezed his hands. He took a sip of soda, and leaned forward in his chair.

Jardin told Hernando detectives that he would love to speak with them — about an alleged bar fight.

But the July 2008 interrogation took a much different tone when detectives started probing about the stabbing deaths of an elderly Masaryktown couple in late October 2006.

"Am I being charged with a crime here?" Jardin asked the detectives in the videotaped interview. "I don't know these people. I can't help you."

Authorities remain convinced that Jardin knows exactly what happened in the home of Patrick, 84, and Evelyn, 79, DePalma. On Thursday, in the fourth day of Jardin's double-murder trial in Hernando Circuit Court, the state juxtaposed video of Jardin's repeated denials with evidence showing that he had been placed at the grisly crime scene.

After yet another meticulous, and at times tedious, eight-hour presentation to jurors, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino told Circuit Judge Jack Springstead that he rested his case.

Defense attorneys will begin bringing witnesses forward today. The trial is expected to break for the weekend and resume Monday.

Jardin, 35, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, armed burglary and grand theft. If convicted of murder, he could face the death penalty.

Dr. Kyle Shaw, an associate medical examiner, wrapped up the day Thursday by going through a painstaking presentation of the fatal injuries suffered by the DePalmas. Magrino had Shaw approach the jury box and show the jury pictures of the couple, describing the wounds in great detail.

Prior to that, Magrino called several detectives from the Sheriff's Office to present more forensic evidence showing that Jardin was in the DePalmas' home at the time of their murders.

Chief among the evidence presented Thursday was the roughly 45-minute video of Jardin's interview at the Sheriff's Office in July 2008.

Jardin went to the office after being summoned there by deputies, who told him they were investigating a bar fight. He agreed to speak with detectives, eagerly telling them that he'd been in lots of bar fights, but not the one about which they were inquiring.

"Everyone has some skeletons in their closet that they don't want to come back and bite them in the a--," Jardin told detectives. "I got some demons."

Jardin initially signed a Miranda waiver form and agreed to speak with detectives, but soon grew concerned as questioning shifted to the murder case.

On the video, Detective Phil Lakin continually pressed Jardin to give them information about the murders, even as Jardin insisted that he knew nothing. Lakin made reference to Jardin's self-admitted drug problems, then implied that detectives already had evidence implicating him in the crime.

"These folks are a victim of drugs, just probably in a different way," Lakin said. "We've been investigating this for a while. … Sometimes people think they're smarter than science."

Jardin continued to insist he had never been to the DePalmas' beige stucco home at 333 Korbus Lane, only a short drive from the Hernando-Pasco county line.

"How would I have any information about this?" Jardin told Lakin. "I never even heard of this murder until today."

But according to court documents, Jardin later admitted that he was at the home the night of the murders and saw the couple lying dead in a hallway.

Jurors did not get to see that portion of the interview. Circuit Judge Jack Springstead last week ruled that those statements should be suppressed, saying that detectives should have advised Jardin of his Miranda rights a second time once the interrogation shifted to a "custodial interrogation."

Instead, Janel Borries, formerly a DNA analyst with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, pointed to a milk jug found in the DePalmas' kitchen that Jardin allegedly drank from while in the home.

Borries said there was a 1-in-180 quadrillion — that's 180 followed by 15 zeroes — chance that someone other than Jardin took a swig from that carton.

However, Borries also told jurors that authorities found DNA from David Alan Bostick, an 18-year-old distant relative of the DePalmas', on boots that were in the home. Bostick was the first suspect arrested in the case, about three months before Jardin, but was later released because of a lack of evidence.

Though authorities have identified only Jardin publicly, court affidavits and hundreds of pages of documents reveal that other suspects remain at large in the deaths.

But on the witness stand Thursday, Lakin admitted that the Sheriff's Office declared the case inactive as of April 15.

Defense attorneys will get their chance to poke holes in the state's case today. At the end of testimony Thursday, public defender Alan Fanter noted to Springstead that Magrino had not been able to prove that Jardin had actually participated in the murders of the DePalmas.

Also, the state has not offered a motive or produced a murder weapon, though Shaw, the medical examiner, surmised it was most likely an instrument at least 6 or 7 inches long.

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120.

Prosecution rests in Robert Jardin's double murder trial 08/26/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 26, 2010 9:33pm]

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