For a third time in two years, the case of Oscar Fowler was presented to a jury.
His first trial over the slaying of Naykee Bostic, shot 25 times in St. Petersburg's Old Southeast neighborhood, ended in a hung jury. Last month, a judge declared a mistrial.
After a third trial spanning nearly two weeks, Fowler's fate is once again in the hands of a jury that began deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Fowler, 41, faces life in prison.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors said the motive was drug money. They said Fowler wanted payment for the 9 ounces of cocaine he gave Bostic, described as an amateur chemist, to cook. The two were "business associates," said Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Colyer.
At 4:20 a.m. on July 28, 2013, a car pulled into Bostic's driveway. He stepped out, got in and never returned. Later that morning, neighbors near Lassing Park heard two strings of gunshots, separated by a short pause.
"When he didn't get paid," Colyer said of Fowler, "the victim paid with his life."
Police found Bostic, known as Spanky, behind 1803 Beach Drive SE. Underneath his body was his phone, the foundation for some of the key evidence in the case: cellphone tower data.
"Phones, love them or hate them, tell you a lot of things, and one of the things we know in this case, the phones tell a good history," she said.
Colyer reminded the jurors Wednesday that data from Bostic's and Fowler's phones placed them at Bostic's house, and later at the crime scene. The data corroborates the testimony of several acquaintances who said Fowler told them he killed Bostic.
But defense attorney Brett Szematowicz compared the state's case to forcing "a square peg into a round hole."
No physical evidence linked Fowler to the slaying. What's more, he added, nine pieces of evidence, some from Fowler's car, were never tested.
Szematowicz also scrutinized the credibility of the state's "jailhouse informants." One witness, sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, has provided information in several other criminal cases.
Another witness spent 10 years in prison for a case in which Fowler's mother helped investigators. A third changed his story several times.
"You cannot hold the fact that he was a drug dealer in 2013 against him," Szematowicz said of Fowler. "Don't fall into the trap that the state has laid for you that this is all about drugs."
Fowler's first trial, in 2015, ended after jurors deliberated for six hours and couldn't reach a verdict.
Then last month, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Chris Helinger declared a mistrial when a state witness divulged in front of the jury that Fowler has spent time in state prison.
Also, an issue raised by the defense is the status of the investigation, which is still open. Assistant State Attorney Richard Ripplinger said there may be a second shooter. Though the guns were not recovered, investigators collected two kinds of bullet casings at the scene.
"That is 25 separate decisions to pull the trigger pointed at a living human being," Ripplinger said. "That's overkill."
Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] Follow @lauracmorel.