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Teen found guilty in killing

Darkness was setting in on the quiet teen hangout, an abandoned building and the concrete tanks of an old sewage treatment plant in woods near Tampa Bay.

William R. "Billy" Casey Jr., 17, was searching for marijuana plants with three teen-age buddies.

Suddenly, Jason Beau Staples lifted his shotgun and fired two shots into Casey's back, killing him.

Daniel Yockey took off running but soon was tackled and choked by a fourth boy, Joshua Allen Walther. When Yockey passed out, Walther and Staples apparently left him for dead, too.

Walther told a Pinellas County jury last week that he never knew Staples was going to kill Casey. And he told jurors that he was trying to quiet Yockey when he choked him. He said he never tried to kill Yockey.

The jury didn't believe him.

On Saturday, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder for his part in a plan to kill his two teen-age friends in a dispute over a girlfriend.

Walther faced charges of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, but the jury rejected an accusation that he knew about the plan in advance. First-degree murder carries a penalty of life in prison, with a minimum of 25 years.

The jury deliberated more than 14 hours Friday and Saturday after the weeklong trial on Casey's death, which occurred April 10, 1989.

Jurors returned to the Pinellas County criminal courts building early Saturday from an undisclosed motel where they were sequestered Friday night. They gave their verdict at 1 p.m.

"I'd consider it a victory, but obviously we thought the evidence warranted first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder convictions," prosecutor Rick Sheinis said. "But you can't find fault with this jury that has obviously worked very hard on this case."

Prosecutors said Walther, 19, and Staples, 20, planned to kill Casey and Yockey, who was 15 at the time.

Shortly after the shooting, Staples and Walther lied to sheriff's deputies about what happened. They told deputies that they were chased from the woods by someone who was shooting at them and that they were concerned about their two friends who got left behind.

But Yockey made it home and eventually told deputies the truth. Staples and Walther were arrested shortly thereafter.

Staples has pleaded guilty to shooting Casey to death because he was jealous over Casey's relationship with his girlfriend. While in jail, he also tried to hire someone to kill Yockey, Staples told police.

Staples testified last week that when they lured Casey into the woods, Yockey came along unexpectedly. Staples said Walther made up the story about the marijuana plants to get Casey into the woods. Staples was to kill Casey, and Walther was to kill Yockey, Staples said.

Walther denied the accusation and said he knew nothing of a plan to kill anybody.

By convicting Walther of the lesser charges, said Walther's attorney, John Fernandez, the jury probably didn't believe Walther planned to commit murder with Staples. "The jury didn't think that it was premeditated," Fernandez said.

Judge Clair K. Luten scheduled Walther's sentencing for April 3. The maximum penalties are 30 years for second-degree murder and 15 years for attempted second-degree murder.

Walther was released on $125,000 bond after the trial. He has lived most of the past three years out of state with relatives.

Fernandez said an appeal is possible.

Walther's relatives, some of whom came from Ohio, declined to comment after the trial.

The victim's father, William Casey Sr., drove from Iowa to watch the proceedings. The verdict, he said, isn't cause for celebration.

"There are no winners in this."

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