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Defendant denies role in teen's death

Joshua Allen Walther has been living out of state for almost three years, he said, because he feared the man who testified against him Thursday at his murder trial.

That man, Jason Beau Staples, 20, told a jury that Walther and he planned to kill William R. Casey Jr., 17, and Daniel Yockey in a dispute over a girlfriend.

Walther is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Testimony at the weeklong trial has revolved around two questions: whether Walther helped plan a murder, and whether he tried to strangle or simply quiet a noisy witness.

Staples has admitted shooting Casey to death, but said Thursday that Walther was in on the plan to commit the murder. Staples also told the jury that Walther's role was to kill Yockey, the only other witness, who survived the ordeal.

It was Walther who came up with the first plan, Staples said.

"It was his idea to hit Billy in the head and throw him off the parking garage at Tampa (International) Airport," Staples said.

The plan changed when Staples was able to borrow a shotgun, Staples said.

"We had gotten the gun," he said. "It seemed a lot easier."

It was the first time Staples had testified in court since Casey was killed in some woods in east Oldsmar on April 10, 1989.

Walther, also testifying for the first time in his trial, denied he knew anything about Staples' plan to kill Casey. He also denied that it was his job to kill Yockey.

"I didn't know anything was going to happen," Walther said. "I thought they would, maybe, fight and that's it."

Both Staples and Walther said they lured Casey out to the woods by telling him they would search for marijuana plants. Yockey, Staples said, came along unexpectedly. In the woods, they said, Staples was to confront Casey about a girl they both liked.

"He (Casey) was hitting on my girlfriend," Staples said Thursday. "He was encouraging our breakup."

In the dark woods, they pretended to search for the marijuana plants for about 15 minutes. Then Staples shot Casey twice in the back with the shotgun.

"I froze. I couldn't move," Walther said. "I thought he was going to shoot me, too."

Walther didn't deny tackling and choking Yockey. Staples said Walther was just keeping up his end of the bargain.

"He looked like he was hitting Dan and then started choking him," Staples said.

But Walther said he was trying to quiet Yockey, who panicked.

"I thought Beau was upset at Danny because he was screaming," Walther said. "I didn't want anybody else to get shot."

Walther's attorney, John D. Fernandez, said Walther was big and strong enough to kill Yockey if he wanted to, but that wasn't his intention. Walther said he was 6 feet 2 and weighed 200 pounds in April 1989. Yockey said Wednesday that he was 5 feet 6 and 135 pounds.

The teen-agers left Casey's body and Yockey, whom Staples assumed was dead, in the woods.

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