LARGO — In a murder trial on Wednesday, an attorney told jurors a tragic story of a young man discovering his mother had been murdered in their Seminole house.
Kevin Kyne, 23, found his mother lying in her bedroom, "her face is blue and he doesn't know what's happened," said Assistant Public Defender Allison Ferber.
Just then, his stepfather comes up to him and "grabs Kevin from around the neck, and he pulls Kevin out of the room," she said. It was a compelling story, seemingly corroborated by Kyne calling 911 and saying, "My stepfather's trying to kill me!"
But it was only one side of the story, because in this trial, Kyne isn't considered a victim. He's the one on trial, accused of murdering his mother.
The case of Diane Kyne's death from asphyxiation became a murder mystery for investigators, because two men — Kyne and his stepfather, William Kyne — were in the house at the time of the killing and each told a different story. Although Kevin Kyne is on trial, William Kyne testified that at one point, he felt detectives were trying to pin the murder on him.
Even after Kevin Kyne was arrested, the evidence was so inconclusive at first that he was released on his own recognizance from the Pinellas County Jail — unheard of for someone facing a murder charge.
But that was 2010. On Wednesday, prosecutor William Loughery said the evidence against Kevin Kyne had become clear.
Loughery set the scene in his opening statement by telling jurors that Kyne, living at home at 23, "basically was the baby bird who didn't want to leave the nest."
He stayed with his mother, Diane, and his stepfather, William Kyne, and had taken William's last name. But there were frequent arguments about when Kevin Kyne would get a job, move out and support himself. And more arguments because Kevin Kyne stayed on the family computer all day and sometimes changed the password so others couldn't use it.
Diane Kyne, Loughery said, had given Kevin a move-out date; but it was delayed because Kevin had brain surgery in the summer of 2010 to remove a noncancerous tumor.
On the afternoon of Aug. 15, 2010, William Kyne was settling in to watch a NASCAR race, Loughery said. Kevin got ready to watch, too, but he took a moment to go into his mother's bedroom. The sounds of an argument soon came from the bedroom, but William Kyne said he didn't think much of it. It wasn't that unusual.
But later, the prosecutor said, William Kyne started to wonder why he hadn't heard any more. He got up and looked into the bedroom.
"As he opens the door, there's Diane on the bed. He can't see much of her because Kevin is on top of her. He's got his hands up towards her neck … he can see that Diane's face is purple. She's not moving, she's not saying anything," Loughery said.
Later, Kevin Kyne denied that he went into the bedroom, Loughery said. But his shoes and glasses were found there. And specks of his blood were found on his mother's leg and on a comforter, he said.
William Kyne took the witness stand Wednesday and said that when he opened the door and looked into the bedroom, "it appeared that he (Kevin) was choking her because her head had turned reddish-purple."
But then Assistant Public Defender John Swisher gave him a vigorous cross-examination, partly centering on whether William Kyne had gone into the bedroom, or just looked in. William Kyne acknowledged that he had twice told sheriff's deputies that he never went into the bedroom at the time of the murder.
But in a third interview, deputies became more accusatory, saying they found his DNA — not Kevin's — around Diane's neck after her death.
In that third interview, William Kyne changed his story and said he had gone into the bedroom. But later in the same interview, he changed back and said that wasn't true. And then he asked for an attorney. On Wednesday, he said the change in his story was a reaction to his feeling that deputies had started treating him like the killer.
Although defense attorneys painted a different picture from prosecutors, Ferber stopped short of accusing William Kyne of the killing. She reminded jurors that the defense attorneys are not required to prove who did it. Under the law, prosecutors have the burden of proving Kevin Kyne committed the crime.
"I'm confident they won't be able to do that," she said.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232.