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Two accused of Hernando County murders cross paths in courtroom

John Kalisz, in orange at left, listens as the pretrial hearing for Stanley Elias Eckard, also in orange, begins in Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing’s courtroom Friday morning. Eckard’s hearing on a murder charge was continued to March 25. Kalisz’ hearing on murder and other charges was postponed to May 6.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

John Kalisz, in orange at left, listens as the pretrial hearing for Stanley Elias Eckard, also in orange, begins in Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing’s courtroom Friday morning. Eckard’s hearing on a murder charge was continued to March 25. Kalisz’ hearing on murder and other charges was postponed to May 6.

BROOKSVILLE — Separated by 35 years in age, two men accused of some of this area's most heinous crimes in recent years stood just feet apart from each other in a Hernando County courtroom Friday morning.

For the first time since pleading guilty and receiving life in prison two weeks ago for the shooting of a Cross City deputy, John Kalisz stood clean-shaven and in an orange jumpsuit before Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing on a number of charges, including the murder last year of his sister and another woman. Rushing postponed Kalisz's hearing until May 6 so more experts and investigators can be deposed.

As the 56-year-old former roofer was fingerprinted, 21-year-old Stanley Elias Eckard stepped into the courtroom, charged with breaking his brother's neck and fracturing his skull before burying his body in the family's yard last year.

A pale, shackled Eckard motioned to his sobbing family members sitting in the second row just after Rushing announced that his hearing would be continued until March 25.

Authorities say Eckard told them he attacked his brother, Sean, because of jealousy over a girl. Early on June 19, he broke into Sean's locked room, reports say, and the two struggled until Eckard wrapped an elastic cord around his brother's neck and the pair fell to the floor, where Eckard heard Sean's neck pop.

"I had no intentions of killing him," he told investigators. "I was just in a fight with him."

Eckard then carried his brother's body through the bedroom window and buried it, with his bare hands, in the yard. The boys' father, Samuel Eckard, later dug it up.

Although Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino pushed for a charge of first-degree murder, the prosecutor has said he will not pursue the death penalty in Eckard's case.

Magrino has said, however, he will try to have Kalisz put to death.

Earlier this month, Kalisz agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing Dixie County Sheriff's Office Capt. Chad Reed, who along with other deputies had tried to stop Kalisz at a gas station in Cross City just hours after authorities say his shooting rampage began in Brooksville.

Kalisz, prosecutors say, killed two people and injured two more at the Brooksville home of his sister, Kathryn "Kitty" Donovan, on Jan. 14, 2010.

Hatred toward his family and the judicial system, Kalisz told investigators 13 days after the killings, compelled him to kill.

"I shot everybody till the bullets ran out," he told them.

How many times was each person shot? "Until they shut up," he replied.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at jcox@sptimes.com or at (352) 848-1432.

Two accused of Hernando County murders cross paths in courtroom 02/25/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 7:15pm]
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