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Man charged in Brooksville double murder could face death penalty

Khristian Donyell Francis [Photo courtesy of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office]
Published Apr. 11, 2018

BROOKSVILLE — State prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case of a man charged with stabbing and shooting a mother and her teenage daughter to death during a January home invasion, Hernando County court records show.

Khristian Donyell Francis, a 24-year-old transient of Brooksville, faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count each of attempted first-degree murder, home invasion robbery while armed, burglary and possession of a firearm by a felon. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will appear again in court in June.

A case filing prepared by District 5 Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, prosecutor on the Francis case, details the crime scene Hernando County sheriff's deputies arrived to find at 27378 Azen Loop on the night of Jan. 23, as well as the investigation that followed.

Blood was splattered on the steps outside. A bullet-hole marked a window frame. Adolphus Washington, a resident of the home, was outside — on his hands and knees, covered in blood. He had gunshot wounds in four places: the jaw, neck, stomach and back, court records said.

"Christian [sic] shot me," said Washington, 36, as a deputy approached him.

Inside the home, Washington's significant other, Taneta Morrell, was found in a bedroom, at the base of a dresser. Blood soaked the carpet around her, records show. Morrell's 16-year-old daughter, Brene Marshall, was facedown on the living room floor. Blood covered the white tile beneath her breathless body, clothed in a flowered dress.

"The female had several puncture wounds consistent with stab wounds in her left oblique area as well as a deep wound in her neck just behind the left ear," a Sheriff's Office report said of Morrell, 40.

Soon, the colored lights of patrol vehicles flooded the Hill n' Dale neighborhood, east of downtown Brooksville. Neighbors Dillard and Evette Hill, who were first to arrive on scene, told deputies they saw a man in a black hoodie run from the house.

The sheriff's helicopter and police dogs began tracking the man as he ran west through the neighborhood and broke into a vacant rental home at 27199 Thorncrest Ave., about an eighth of a mile away. SWAT deputies found Francis inside the dryer in the laundry room and later located some of his belongings in the attic and inside a shed in the backyard.

Court records show that minutes before the shooting, Morrell and Marshall saw Francis at a liquor store near the neighborhood. Washington told investigators that when Morrell arrived home, she told him a man, later identified as Francis, had asked "Where your old man at?" and "Your old man home?"

About five minutes later, Washington later told deputies, Francis knocked on the door. When Washington opened it, Francis shot him and trudged inside.

A few days after the shooting, Washington told an investigator he had known Francis for about a year. They didn't talk much, he said, but were friendly.

Sometimes, Francis' little sisters would swim in Washington's pool, and on a couple of occasions, Francis joined a football betting game Washington organized. Washington often spent time with Francis' father, Jeffrey Jackson, who also lives in the neighborhood. Washington told deputies that his and Jackson's families both have ties to Alabama.

When asked if he and Francis had any unfinished business between them, Washington told investigators he once loaned Francis $20-worth of marijuana, but later told him not to worry about paying him back. The two men didn't have any problems, Washington said.

"He believes that his family (was) an easy target and (Francis) was desperate," a Sheriff's Office report said.

When contacted by the Tampa Bay Times last week, Jackson, said it is "shocking" to see his son connected to such a horrific crime. He declined to make specific comments on the case.

"Those are serious allegations ... the worst of the worst that you could get," said Jackson, who said he is a former law enforcement officer. "I can't say anything that is going to jeopardize my son, myself or my family."

After the shooting, Jackson told investigators he urged his son many times to turn himself in to the Sheriff's Office because of the multiple warrants out for his arrest. He said Francis stopped by his house — at 6371 Dakota Drive, not far from the shooting site or where Francis was found — with a loaded gun about four hours before the shooting.

When Jackson started getting calls that night about what happened down the street on Azen Loop, he told investigators, he "had a feeling" Francis might be involved.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Francis was arrested as an 18-year-old in 2012 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The next year, he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, a third-degree felony, but the charge was later dropped, records show. In 2014, Francis was convicted of unarmed burglary and grand theft, both felonies.

In 2016, records show, he was arrested twice for violation of probation, felony unarmed burglary, misdemeanor battery, resisting an officer and possession of a weapon by a felon, but was never convicted.

Francis' attorney, Jamie Kane of the Hernando County Public Defender's Office, could not be reached for comment. Francis remains at Hernando County Detention Center without bail. He will appear before Judge Daniel Merritt on June 12 at 1 p.m. at the Hernando County Courthouse, 20 N. Main St.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

>>>PREVIOUS COVERAGE:>'Tomorrow is not promised,' loved ones say at Brooksville teen's birthday party turned vigil

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