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First of three trials in fatal shooting begins today

Nobody says Ronald Spaulding fired the fatal shot.

Nevertheless, Spaulding faces an uphill battle when he goes on trial today in the slaying of Robert Dean.

Spaulding, according to court records, told homicide detectives that he was there when Dean, 35, was shot in the driveway of a Holiday mobile home in August 2000. Spaulding said he went there, along with his two cousins, intending to rob a drug dealer known as Shorty.

Dean, a handyman with five young daughters, was housesitting for Shorty that night. He was shot in the head after he confronted the would-be robbers, prosecutors say.

Spaulding and his two cousins, Glen and John Oyer, each gave a statement to detectives. Each admitted being there. Each admitted carrying a gun.

But when questioning turned to who fired the fatal shot, family loyalty gave way to finger pointing. Nobody, however, identified Spaulding as the shooter.

But unfortunately for Spaulding, Florida is one of many states with a felony murder statute. Under the law, a person participating in a felony that led to a homicide can be convicted of first-degree murder.

That's what prosecutors will ask a jury to do this week as Spaulding goes on trial in a New Port Richey courtroom.

Charged with first-degree murder, Spaulding, 24, faces the possibility of life in prison without parole.

Glen and John Oyer also were indicted on charges of first-degree murder. They will be tried separately.

Prosecutors and Spaulding's attorney, Charles Lykes, declined to comment on the case.

Dean's five daughters have been eagerly awaiting the trials of the three defendants. Though it has been 2{ years since their father's death, they still aren't clear about the details of his killing. They hope Spaulding's trial will bring some answers.

"We still don't know what actually happened out there," said Angela Dean, 14.

One thing they do know: Their father didn't deserve to die.

"They all should spend the rest of their lives in jail," said Nikki Dean, 16. "We just want justice."

On Aug. 27, 2000, Dean was housesitting for his landlord, Terry Nelson, who was known around the neighborhood as Shorty.

Seven years earlier, Dean's wife walked out on him, leaving him with the couple's five daughters. Dean couldn't afford to make a home for the girls on the money he earned as a handyman, so the girls went to live with their grandparents. Dean visited the girls several times a day, stopping by each night to kiss them good night.

On the night of the shooting, Dean was startled awake by a noise, and he went outside to investigate, authorities say. He was shot in the head, behind the left ear.

Spaulding and the Oyer brothers were arrested nearly two months later.

Spaulding's statement to detectives likely will play a central role in this week's trial.

He said he and the Oyer brothers did not know Dean. Their plan that night, he said, was to rob Nelson of drugs. They also knew that Nelson usually carried several thousand dollars in cash in his pocket.

Spaulding said he and the Oyer brothers dressed in black and walked up to Nelson's mobile home on Flora Avenue carrying handguns. Glen Oyer's weapon was the only one loaded, Spaulding told detectives.

But Nelson was not home. He was in Bristol, Tenn., watching a stock car race. He later admitted to detectives that he sold drugs out of his house, records show.

Dean scuffled with the three men in the driveway, authorities say. Spaulding told detectives that he pointed his gun at Dean.

"I told him to freeze," Spaulding said. "That's when it dawned on me: "What the hell are we doing?' "

Then Glen Oyer took over, Spaulding said, telling Dean to "get down."

"No sooner did he tell him to get down, bam!' Spaulding told detectives.

Spaulding said he and Glen Oyer went through Dean's pockets. They got about $4.

John Oyer, 22, gave a similar account but said his brother didn't mean to shoot Dean, according to court records. He said Glen Oyer meant to only pistol whip Dean, and the gun went off accidentally.

Glen Oyer, 24, said his brother fired the fatal shot.

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