BROOKSVILLE — A Spring Hill man accused of killing his brother and burying him in the yard has a couple more days to think about a plea offer before he goes to trial on a charge of first-degree murder.
Stanley Eckard appeared on Wednesday for what was supposed to be his last status hearing before the start of his trial on Monday. Chief Assistant Public Defender Alan Fanter asked Circuit Judge Anthony Tatti to set another hearing on Friday morning.
Fanter and chief homicide prosecutor Pete Magrino have declined to comment about the case or any pending plea negotiations. Eckard's parents, Samuel and Donna Eckard, told the Times this week that prosecutors have offered to cap Eckard's prison sentence at 20 years if he pleads guilty to second-degree murder.
A first-degree murder conviction comes with a mandatory life prison term, but Eckard could also be sentenced to life if a jury finds him guilty of second-degree murder.
Prosecutors say Stanley Eckard planned to kill Sean Eckard when he broke into his 19-year-old brother's locked bedroom early on the morning of June 19, 2010.
According to court documents, Eckard said he wrapped an elastic cord around Sean's neck 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.
He admitted that, instead of calling for help, he hoisted his brother out the window and buried him in a shallow grave in the side yard of the Spring Hill home the men shared with their parents. Samuel Eckard found Sean's body two days later.
The Eckards told the Times they are convinced their son is telling the truth and have criticized prosecutors for pursuing a murder charge.
Friday may be Eckard's last chance to make a plea. It's unclear if Tatti would allow him to change his mind as late as Monday, when jury selection is scheduled to begin.
Monday is also Eckard's 24th birthday.
Reach Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1431.