TAMPA — It took two lunches, a pizza supper and 13 hours of deliberation over two days for a jury to find a club DJ guilty of the first-degree murder of his girlfriend as she held one of his twin babies in her arms.
By 1:30 p.m. Friday, jurors apparently accepted the prosecution's scenario — that Cedrick Salter, 30, went to the home of his girlfriend Saquanda Simon, 30, on Sept. 8, 2009, intending to fulfill the death threats he had sent her in text messages.
The prosecution described him pursuing her from room to room as she held one of their 18-month-old twins, then shooting her above the right eye with a 9mm semiautomatic.
Did the long deliberations suggest loose ends in a tightly wrapped murder case? Or was the jury simply being conscientious, poring over each piece of evidence?
Jurors left the courthouse quickly Friday without speaking. Reached later and asked if the jury struggled, forewoman Kristy Fox said, "I'm not going to comment. The length should speak for itself."
The prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Kyle Pennington, said long deliberations don't always indicate that a jury is divided. "All I could assume is they were going through each bit of evidence," he said.
The most damning evidence of premeditation, he said, came in the form of text messages that Salter sent on his way to the victim's home.
There was this one:
"I'm gonna kill you no matter what. … We're both dead. It don't matter."
Pennington told the jury, "The texts threatened death, and death happened."
Simon had been Salter's girlfriend for six years. He said he felt free to come and go as he pleased to see the twins. He never worried about Simon finding someone else. "I was her whole world," he told detectives.
She was a widowed nurse who worked at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. The previous March she filed a domestic violence petition complaining that Salter had threatened to stab her with a screwdriver. The complaint was dropped when she didn't show up at a hearing. The jury never heard about that.
Simon was still in her blue hospital scrubs when Salter shot her. The prosecution said Salter went to the house angry because she hadn't answered his text messages.
Salter never denied shooting her, or running from the house afterward.
He declined to testify at his trial. But in a 90-minute videotaped statement to detectives, Salter said he had attempted to give his gun to Simon's mother as a peace gesture. Two male family members grabbed his arm, he said, and the gun went off twice, one shot striking Simon.
Salter sobbed while giving the statement. He denied Simon was holding a baby. At least one juror cried while watching the videotape this week. Salter's public defender, Greg Hill, said it was all a horrible accident.
Salter had no reaction when he heard the verdict Friday. He blew a kiss to a photographer. Earlier in the week, he had tried unsuccessfully to get Circuit Judge Emmett Battles to disqualify himself.
Battles scheduled sentencing for Thursday. Salter faces a life sentence without parole.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. John Barry can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3383.