Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Woman at center of Stanley Eckard murder case takes stand

BROOKSVILLE — Prosecutors say Stanley Eckard killed his younger brother, Sean, three years ago because of a woman.

On Wednesday, the second day of Eckard's first-degree murder trial, that woman took the stand.

During questioning by assistant state attorney Pete Magrino, Samantha Rowe recalled a conversation with Stanley Eckard on June 19, 2010. She testified that Stanley told her Sean had packed up and left the state.

Earlier that day, however, Stanley had buried the body of 19-year-old Sean in the side yard of the Spring Hill home the brothers shared with their parents.

Rowe, who was dating Sean at the time, didn't know that.

"He told me he was a lot more relaxed now that Sean had left, and there wasn't so much tension in the house anymore," Rowe said.

Rowe, whose last name was Nicholson then, said Stanley told her that they could get back together now that Sean was gone. She told him there was no such thing as "back together" because there was never a "together" in the first place. They had only hung out alone once, she testified, when Stanley told her he had a crush on her.

Then, as they sat in Rowe's car a couple of blocks away from the Eckard home, they kissed.

Magrino is trying to convince jurors that Rowe was on Stanley Eckard's mind when he went into Sean's bedroom earlier that morning. Within moments, Sean was dead.

Magrino said during his opening argument Tuesday that Stanley's own statements to detectives after his arrest indicated he planned to kill his brother because of simmering resentment, much of it over Rowe. Chief assistant public defender Alan Fanter told jurors Sean's death happened accidentally during a struggle, when the younger man hit his head on a night stand.

A medical examiner testified Tuesday that Sean suffered a fractured skull and a broken neck from blunt force trauma. She said it was possible those injuries were caused by hitting his head during a fall.

The defense's case is complicated by what Stanley, now 24, admits he did after realizing Sean was dead. Instead of calling for help, he hoisted his brother's body out the bedroom window and buried him in a shallow grave.

Prosecutors say Stanley then used Sean's cellphone to send text messages to Rowe.

"I received messages from Sean's phone telling me he left and was going to California, and he was breaking up with me," Rowe testified Wednesday. "I texted (Stanley) and said he was right about Sean."

Rowe said Stanley had warned her that Sean was just using her and would soon move on to another woman.

After receiving Rowe's message, Stanley told her to call him. She did.

"He said he just woke up, he didn't know what was going on, his mom was crying, Sean's things were gone and they think he was walking on the interstate," Rowe recalled.

Their meeting in the car happened later that day.

During cross-examination, Fanter tried to show jurors that there was more to the relationship between Stanley and Rowe.

He noted a series of sexually explicit text messages Rowe sent to Stanley at the end of May and more flirtatious messages she sent after they kissed in the car that Saturday in June. In one of the messages, she told him she wanted to see him again.

Fanter is also trying to convince jurors that Sean's temper had become more volatile after a bout with encephalitis a couple of years earlier, and that he was angry with his brother about Rowe.

Rowe acknowledged that Sean was acting strangely in the week before his death, especially on Friday night, the last time she saw him alive.

"Did he tell you he thought the world was going to end that night and kept asking if you knew how much he loved you?" Fanter asked.

Yes, Rowe replied.

The brothers' father, Samuel Eckard, discovered Sean's body the following Monday.

Jurors on Wednesday watched a video of the crime scene taken by investigators. It included footage of Sean's dirt-caked body, in a fetal position in the hole his brother dug for him.

When the images appeared, Stanley looked away. His father, sitting two rows behind him, sobbed quietly.

Samuel Eckard and his wife, Donna, have said they believe Stanley's account of what caused Sean's death, and they have criticized prosecutors for pursuing a murder charge.

The trial is expected to finish this week.

Reach Tony Marrero at or (352) 848-1431.

Woman at center of Stanley Eckard murder case takes stand 04/10/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas licensing board executive director settled hundreds of cases without getting his board's approval

    Local Government

    By Mark Puente

    Times Staff Writer

    Eleanor Morrison complained to the Pinellas licensing board in 2015 that her contractor installed crooked walls and windows and poured too much concrete for her carport.

    Eleanor Morrison poses at her home in Treasure Island, 5/26/17. Morrison filed a complaint with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and later learned that its former Executive Director, Rodney Fischer, dismissed the case in a private meeting with the contractor.
  2. Report: Kusher wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin


    Jared Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Donald Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, U.S. …

    The name of Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's White House senior adviser, has come up as part of the Russia investigation. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    In their third year with pitching coach Neil Allen, the Twins have been one of the surprises of the American League.
  4. Swan sculpture deputies say was stolen by naked man found near Lakeland pond


    A $25,000 swan sculpture that Polk County sheriff's deputies say was stolen by a naked man last weekend was found near a pond in Lakeland on Thursday.

    A swan sculpture that was stolen in Lakeland on May 19 was recovered by the Polk Sheriff’s Office on Friday.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back


    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally