Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

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 [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 10 hours ago