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In murder whodunit, Seminole man goes on trial a second time

Kevin Kyne was convicted in his mother’s murder in 2012.
Kevin Kyne was convicted in his mother’s murder in 2012.
Published Feb. 2, 2015

William Kyne knows what it's like to be at the center of a murder investigation.

When his wife was killed in 2010, detectives pressed him hard:

You failed a lie detector test, they told him. Your DNA was found on the neck of your wife, who was asphyxiated. You stand to collect half a million dollars in insurance money. The detectives also pointed to how Kyne changed part of his story.

"The house of cards falls apart," one detective told him. He said Kyne's story was "totally unscientific, not believable, and makes you look like you're lying."

But detectives didn't arrest Kyne. Instead, they shifted the spotlight to Diane Kyne's adult son, Kevin. He was charged with murder. Still, during the trial, William Kyne remained under scrutiny, as defense attorneys suggested to the jury that he was the real killer.

The son was convicted, but now an appeal has led to a new trial, which starts today. It's a do-over for a case that garnered national attention on the Investigation Discovery channel and various online outlets.

William Kyne, who felt all but formally accused of murder the first time, knows he will be in the firing line again.

"Like several people have said, none of the facts of the case have changed," he said. In his opinion, the new trial is "just a waste of taxpayer money."

One was the killer

Diane Kyne, 49, was killed on Aug. 15, 2010, in the bedroom of the house at 8918 134th St. N in Seminole, where she lived with several extended family members. She was lying on the bed, and was either smothered or strangled to death; medical examiners could not conclusively say which.

Only two other people were home at that time: her husband, William, then 53, and son Kevin, then 23. One had to be the killer. Both called 911 immediately afterward. Each blamed the other for the killing.

William Kyne's version: He and Kevin Kyne were watching a NASCAR race, and Kevin got up from the television. He eventually heard Kevin and Diane arguing, and then they stopped. When William went to check on them, he saw Kevin standing over Diane, who was stretched out on the bed. He could not quite make out whether Kevin was smothering her, but he testified that "It appeared that he was choking her because her head had turned red — reddish purple."

Kevin's version, which he explained to a grand jury: William said Diane wanted to speak to him, so Kevin got up and went to the bedroom, where he saw his mother sprawled on the bed. "Her face was black and blue. She was not responding. As I opened the door, (William) got me from the back of the neck and started choking me. So I tried my damnedest to get away from him. And I finally made it outside. He was still choking me. Called 911."

Three drops of blood

Three drops or "flecks" of Kevin Kyne's blood were found on Diane Kyne's leg. During the first trial, Assistant State Attorney William Loughery said Kyne denied going into his mother's bedroom; he said he stayed in the doorway. So how could his blood have ended up on his mother's leg? Not only that, Loughery said, but Kevin's sandals and broken glasses also were found in the bedroom.

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Kevin had said he was not sure how his glasses got in the bedroom and he was 99 percent sure the Birkenstock sandals did not belong to him. But testing later showed they were covered with his DNA. Also, traces of Kevin's blood, which appeared to have been spit out, were on a comforter on the bed.

Chief Assistant Public Defender John Swisher said during the first trial that "there's other places that blood could have come from," such as a bathroom that both Kevin and his mother used, and where Kevin might have shaved. It wasn't clear when Kevin's blood got onto the comforter, he said.

DNA and a half million dollars in insurance

Some DNA belonging either to William Kyne or a male relative — such as his other son, who was not home at the time of the death — was discovered on Diane's neck. The DNA did not belong to Kevin, who is not William's biological son. The DNA finding invites scrutiny, considering that the medical examiner said Diane was either strangled or smothered to death. Prosecutors argued that the presence of a spouse's DNA was not unexpected.

William also received about $500,000 in insurance after his wife's death, he confirmed in an interview last week. This came up during the first trial as defense attorney Swisher asked: "Might Bill kill over money? Over half a million dollars?" But as prosecutors pointed out, the insurance policies had been taken out years before Diane's death.

"Alert the press," said Loughery, the assistant state attorney, "married couple has insurance on each other."

A previous death and changing stories

William Kyne's first wife had previously died in the same house, drowning in the swimming pool. He received insurance money that time as well. But foul play was never suspected, and it was not considered relevant evidence in the first trial.

The defense did point to William's changing story about what happened after Diane Kyne was killed. During his session with detectives, William said he had not gone into the bedroom after his wife died, but at one point he changed his story to say he did. "Are there conflicts in his testimony? Absolutely," Swisher said.

Scrutiny of husband was 'understandable'

William Kyne spoke last week to the Tampa Bay Times, as he braced for a replay of the trial.

He said getting grilled by the detectives in 2010 was extremely uncomfortable, but now he adds: "It was understandable because they did have to get it right. It was either him or me. In the end everything came out and they got it right."

Kevin was convicted of second-degree murder in 2012 and sentenced to life in prison. The 2nd District Court of Appeal, however, ruled the trial judge should not have allowed evidence of "prior violent disputes between Kevin and William" to be brought up during the first trial.

William Kyne said the time following the first trial was not easy for him. He got a DUI and late in 2012 was arrested for driving while his license was suspended, getting an 18-month prison sentence. But he spent the second half of his sentence in a prison-sponsored alcohol treatment program.

"I see God's hand in it. He worked everything out for good," he said, adding that the program helped him get sober. "If I was left to my own devices, I could have killed somebody."

He is trying to view this week's trial with a similar perspective.

"There's a reason for it," he said. But he added, "I don't have the reason for it."

Contact Curtis Krueger at ckrueger@tampabay.com or (727) 892-8232. Follow @ckruegertimes.

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