1. Archive

June 14 trial set in slaying of deputy

With a SWAT team on the courthouse roof to protect him and clad in body armor, Alfredie Steele Jr. was back in court Tuesday as a judge scheduled his murder trial for June 14.

Steele, 20, could face the death penalty if convicted in the June 1 shooting death of Pasco County sheriff's Lt. Charles "Bo" Harrison.

Harrison, 57, was killed by a sniper as he sat in his patrol car outside a Trilacoochee nightclub.

The Sheriff's Office would not comment on the beefed up security around Steele, but he was the only inmate to appear Tuesday wearing a bullet-resistant vest under his jail-issue jumpsuit.

His attorney, Public Defender Tom Hanlon, said he knew of no threats against Steele.

Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper set the case for trial.

Prosecutor Phil Van Allen said the state's case is ready, and Hanlon said barring any surprises from prosecutors, he should be prepared to try the case as scheduled.

Van Allen said investigators continue to search for the murder weapon, thought to be an SKS assault rifle.

"Every time somebody picks up a weapon of similar caliber, we have it checked," he told Tepper.

The trial is expected to take a week.

Tepper also scheduled a hearing for March 4, when Hanlon said he will try to keep statements Steele reportedly made to investigators out of the trial.

Hanlon said the motion would be filed this week, but he declined to elaborate on what grounds he would ask that the statements be withheld from the jury.

Investigators contend Steele told them during questioning that he had seen a photograph of his dead friend, Michael Anthony Reed, in the St. Petersburg Times the afternoon before Harrison's death.

The photograph, of Reed being tended to by rescue workers after he crashed following a car chase with deputies, set Steele on a drinking binge that ended with Harrison's shooting, according to a transcript of statements Steele made to a detective.

Hanlon has filed a motion to bar prosecutors from any mention of a motive, contending that no one has testified at deposition that they heard Steele admit to killing Harrison in retaliation for Reed's death.

A large contingent of Steele's family and friends watched Tuesday's hearing. Steele showed no emotion in the courtroom and did not appear to make contact with his supporters.