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Death Penalty Trial Set for Christopher Vasata in 2017 FL Triple Murder
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Thread: Death Penalty Trial Set for Christopher Vasata in 2017 FL Triple Murder

  1. #1
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Death Penalty Trial Set for Christopher Vasata in 2017 FL Triple Murder


    Victims Brandi El-Salhy, 24, Kelli J. Doherty, 20, and Sean P. Henry, 25





    Man, 24, accused in Jupiter triple slaying


    WPEC News

    A 24-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a triple homicide in a Jupiter neighborhood, police announced.

    Christopher Vasata is facing charges that include three counts of first-degree murder for the Feb. 5 killings that happened at a home on Mohawk Street.

    During a news conference Monday evening, Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow did not disclose the relationship between Vasata and the three people who were killed, but did confirm that Vasata was shot during the incident and was later located in Paseos neighborhood suffering from a gunshot wound.

    The three people killed in the shooting were Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville, Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta and Sean P. Henry, 25, of Jupiter.

    Vasata was a suspect early in the investigation and has since been recovering from his wounds at a hospital, Kitzerow told reporters. He said investigators think at least one other shooter was involved in the killings and that the investigation remains open and active.

    Charlie Vorpagel, 27, who lives in the house where the slayings took place, was arrested on federal weapons and drug charges.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/pa...321-story.html
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  2. #2
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    State to seek death penalty against man charged in Jupiter triple homicide

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - State attorneys said during a Monday court hearing they will seek the death penalty against a man arrested in connection with the February shooting deaths of three people in Jupiter.

    Christopher Vasata, 24, was arrested in March after the homicides occurred Feb. 5 on Mohawk Street.

    Vasata faces three counts of first degree murder with a firearm, one count of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm and one count of a felon possession of a firearm or ammunition.

    Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta, Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville and Sean P. Henry, 25, of Jupiter died in the shootings.

    http://www.wptv.com/news/region-n-pa...riple-homicide
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  3. #3
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    JUST IN: How new DNA technology led to Jupiter triple homicide arrests

    By Hannah Winston
    Palm Beach Post

    Jupiter was at a loss for answers in the days and months after the 2017 Super Bowl: Three people in their 20s had been fatally shot in the backyard of a home in a town where homicides are rare. But eventually, technology that fewer than 100 forensic labs nationwide are trained to use helped uncover some of the answers, authorities say.

    Two men — Christopher Vasata and Marcus Steward — are in custody and charged with three counts of first-degree murder. They were arrested eight months apart, and the second of those arrests – which came nearly 10 months after the slayings – was made possible in part by STRmix, a software program that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Biology Unit began using in August.

    STRmix uses an algorithm to help scientists identify individual DNA contributors in evidence that contains several people’s DNA. That program helped decipher key pieces of evidence that led to the November arrest of Steward, long after Vasata's arrest in March.

    Celynda Sowards, a senior forensic scientist with the sheriff’s office, said the technology is enhancing the way scientists help authorities in criminal cases.

    “In the old days you would have a road atlas, and that’s how you got from point A to point B. Now, you have all different kinds of apps help you get there,” Sowards told The Post Thursday. “So the road atlas that got you there still works, but now there’s just more information that you can use to get you there.”

    The crime

    On Feb. 5, Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta; Sean P. Henry, 25, of Jupiter; and Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville were shot and killed in the backyard of a home on Mohawk Street in the Jupiter River Estates neighborhood, south of Indiantown Road and west of Military Trail.

    Charles Vorpagel, who rented the home, escaped the shooting scene uninjured. He told police that at least three people in masks and gloves entered the backyard shortly after 10:30 p.m. and said, “Pay what you owe, (expletive).”

    Police reports later indicated drugs were at the center of the shooting.

    Vorpagel also said Henry’s car was missing from the driveway. A few hours later, the Honda was found abandoned on Interstate 95 near Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens. A rifle, some bloodied items, gloves and clothing were found in and near the car, according to Jupiter police.

    Vasata, who was injured in the shooting that night, was found dumped in front of a BMW on a street in Paseos, a neighborhood a few streets south of Mohawk. He was arrested March 20 when he was released from a hospital.

    Vorpagel was arrested on unrelated federal guns and drugs charges. On Nov. 29, Vorpagel pleaded guilty to the charges, and is set to be sentenced Feb. 16.

    The fatal shootings stunned residents in Jupiter River Estates, a quiet neighborhood near Jupiter Christian School, and the town on a whole. Before the triple homicide on Feb. 5, the last homicide in Jupiter was in 2015. In total, there have been only 11 homicides in the town since 2009, according to a Palm Beach Post online database.

    Steward, who most recently lived in suburban West Palm Beach, was a suspect from the beginning because his cellphones were found in the back of the BMW that Vasata was dumped in front of. Steward told police he had forgotten them in the BMW when Vasata sold him marijuana earlier in the evening. It wasn’t until further DNA analysis was done on the items in the stolen Honda, however, that Steward was arrested on Nov. 28.

    The DNA

    Called a genetic blueprint, deoxyribonucleic acid — or DNA — is the individual molecular code inside every organism. It carries biological information from one generation to the next and provides instructions on how to develop, survive and reproduce. And it’s in every cell in our bodies including blood and sweat.

    The first person in the United States to be convicted of a crime using DNA evidence was Tommie Lee Andres in Orange County, Florida, in 1987 for rape. Since then, DNA has been used both to convict and exonerate hundreds of people across the U.S.

    Even with the incredible leap in technology and science, PBSO Forensic Biology Unit Manager Julie Sikorsky said DNA isn’t necessarily “a silver bullet” for every crime.

    “Just because your DNA is found in this room and a homicide is committed later in this room today, that doesn’t mean you did it,” Sikorsky said. “(Analysts) help (law enforcement) interpret the context of the DNA. But we stay away from the guilty/innocent part.”

    Sowards, the forensic scientist, said on the screen, DNA looks like peaks on a heart-rate monitor. When analysts get evidence with single contributors, or only one DNA profile, those results tend to be more straightforward: a single set of discernible peaks.

    When there is more than one person’s DNA in a sample, more peaks show up and they become harder to differentiate. She said that’s why in cases like rape or stolen vehicles, victims are often asked to provide their DNA so they can be ruled out when investigators look at the profiles.

    But not all mixtures have simple eliminations. Sikorsky said that as DNA detection methods became more sensitive over the years, analysts were able to pick up more information with smaller samples. Because of that sensitivity, more DNA mixtures appeared in the readings.

    “So there’s a lot more we were detecting, which can be very helpful in determining who was at a crime scene or interactions with some items of evidence,” Sikorsky said.

    Inside Sean Henry’s stolen Honda, as well as outside on the side of the roadway, were a bloodstained pillow, black gloves, a T-shirt, a black hooded sweatshirt and other items covered in blood and sweat. Vasata’s DNA was found in one of the gloves. The keys to the BMW also were found near Henry’s car.

    The issue, according to a Jupiter police report, is that the DNA samples on those items were mixed and could not be discerned by the technology at the sheriff’s office at that time.

    The new technology

    STRmix’s algorithm helps forensic scientists interpret complex DNA samples through a process called probabilistic genotyping.

    Though scientists can interpret the DNA mixtures as three or four people, they may not be able to say which piece of DNA came from which person. That’s where STRmix comes in: Analysts put the data from the complex mixtures into the software and the computer separates them into their own parts.

    With the information, STRmix runs at least 500,000 iterations to explain the data in minutes to hours, depending on how complex the sample is. Sowards said it works like the board game Battleship: Players guess certain coordinates on an opponent’s board trying to figure out where a battleship is placed. The program makes guesses until it gets a “hit” in the sample. Each guess is given a certain weight based on how accurately it explains the DNA mixture.

    Sowards said instructors at STRmix showed them the calculations the software uses to come up with each of the probabilities. She said it would “take a year” for each analyst to do it manually for each case.

    As of November 2017, there were 29 labs in the United States that use the STRmix technology — including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI — and another 51 labs were being trained.

    Sikorsky said the sheriff’s office began training with the technology in July 2016. Between a National Institute of Justice grant and PBSO funding, it cost $230,000 for seven software licenses, validation of the software and training.

    After the technology went into use in August, the sheriff’s office started checking cases, old and new, right away. Not all cases are eligible to be tested: Analysts must know how many people make up the DNA mixture. As of now, about two-thirds of all DNA cases are put through the software, Sikorsky said.

    “The very first week we were online, we were able to provide profiles in cases that would have previously been ruled inconclusive,” Sikorsky said.

    And those items in Henry’s stolen Honda could now be analyzed further.

    According to a Jupiter police report, the glove had 89 percent of the DNA contribution came on the glove came from Steward and 7 percent to Vasata. The last 4 percent belonged to an unknown contributor.

    The frame of the rifle found by the car had 69 percent DNA contribution from Vasata, 25 percent from Steward, and 6 percent from an unknown person.

    The hoodie found in the car had 53 percent of Steward’s DNA, 33 percent of Vasata’s and 14 percent belonged to a third person.

    Police have not said if anyone else has been identified.

    The courts

    With new technology comes new questions and standards in court.

    On Jan. 16, Steward’s attorneys filed a motion asking for information about the DNA technology and how the samples are kept, among other details.

    Sikorsky said while there have been cases involving their work with STRmix since August, the analysts are mainly doing depositions at this point. In the meantime, she said, they’re also finishing presentations for the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office so they can have a better understanding of the technology during trials.

    The new probabilistic genotyping software has come under fire in the courts across the world, but it also has been allowed by judges for use in Florida and other states.

    In State of Florida v. Dwayne Cummings, Cummings wanted to exclude the STRmix DNA evidence from his Manatee County first-degree murder trial in 2017. Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll concluded “the State met its burden to demonstrate that probabilistic genotyping and the STRmix software are reliable and may be presented to the jury in this case.”

    Another software program, TrueAllele, has come under fire for not releasing source code to be examined in cases.

    In 2014, STRmix had its own issues in New Zealand courts after coding errors were detected. Since then, it released its mathematical equations to be examined.

    Sikorsky said one reason the sheriff’s office picked STRmix over others like TrueAllele is because it’s “less of a black box.” STRmix provides equations and showed PBSO analysts during training how the calculations work.

    “I could not rederive any of the equations they did (off the top of my head),” Sikorsky said laughing. “But they explained to us how the software program works, so we could translate that.”

    http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/...zJ8QKVJ1ZZhpM/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  4. #4
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    Police interview Steward long before his arrest

    By WFLX News

    The “Chris" Seward refers to is Christopher Vasata, who, at the time of this interview had not yet been charged with the murders either.

    However, the night of the shooting, police did find him and his BMW about a mile from the scene with. Vasata a gunshot wound.

    “I pulled up here with my brother and [Vasata was] right here in front of the house,” Steward told detectives. “He talking. He had given me some weed and stuff. I had bought some weed from him and stuff like that."

    We have obtained a police interview with a man now charged with the Super Bowl Sunday night triple murders in Jupiter last year.

    What’s interesting is that this interview took place long before his arrest.

    It is now clear that police had Marcus Steward on their radar within days of the murders even though it took months to build a case and arrest him.

    In the audio interview, detectives asked Steward why they found two of his phones in a car connected to the killings.

    Also included in the discovery, never before seen pictures of the guns, the gloves and the hoodie that detectives say connect 25-year-old Marcus Steward to the killings.

    They interviewed steward at his home in West Palm Beach less than two weeks after the shooting.

    “We recovered a vehicle that was involved in our homicide and two or your phones were in that car,” said the detective.

    She asked him to explain why his phones were in a car connected to the crime.

    “Who's was it,” asked Steward.

    “Well I don’t know you need to explain to me… ,” said the detective.

    “What color was the car?”

    “Black.”

    “Black BMW,” said Steward. “His name was Chris."

    Steward told detectives Vasata was his drug dealer. He admitted that the two were hanging out in Vasata’s BMW Super Bowl Sunday night.

    Steward claimed Vasata had to leave abruptly which is why Steward claims he accidentally left his two phones in Vasata’s BMW.

    “I’ve been trying to call him, call him, call him because he got my phone."

    About a month after this interview, police arrested and charged Christopher Vasata for the murders. And newly improved DNA analysis helped police connected Steward to evidence connected to the crime and the crime scene.

    http://www.wflx.com/story/37541472/p...ore-his-arrest
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  5. #5
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
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    NEW: Jail letters give more insights into Jupiter triple murder

    By Hannah Winston
    Palm Beach Post

    JUPITER — Charles Vorpagel, the sole survivor of the 2017 triple homicide in Jupiter, acknowledged that even with the federal charges pending against him, it wasn’t just his case he needed to worry about.

    “I owe it to my friends and my friends’ families to bring their killers to justice,” he wrote in an undated letter. “There is a reason I am still alive.”

    Recently released letters from Vorpagel to an unknown inmate offer more details into the night of and days after the triple homicide that shocked the town. The letters were part of the evidence for the trials of Christopher
    Vasata and Marcus Steward, the men charged with the fatal shootings on Super Bowl Sunday last year.

    Vorpagel, 28, was arrested on unrelated federal gun and drug charges. On Nov. 29, he pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced in February to eight years in federal prison.

    On Feb. 5, 2017, Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta, Sean P. Henry, 25, of Jupiter and Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville were gathered around a fire pit in Vorpagel’s backyard on Mohawk Street in Jupiter River Estates, a neighborhood south of Indiantown Road and west of Military Trail.

    Vorpagel wrote there was another friend at the home that night, but he had driven him home just before the shooting.

    “I took him home 15 minutes before the shooting,” Vorpagel wrote. “Three of my other friends were murdered in my backyard.”

    Henry, Doherty and El-Salhy were shot and killed by three masked gunmen, according to Vorpagel in his interview with police. He said when the gunmen entered the backyard shortly after 10:30 p.m., they said, "Pay what you owe, (expletive)."

    Police reports later indicated that drugs were at the center of the shooting.

    Vorpagel escaped the scene uninjured. In the letters, he said he got lucky.

    “I was able to escape because one of the gunmen stumbled and shot another in the hip and the third gunmen’s altered glock 23 jammed,” he wrote. “They rushed us while we were sitting by my fire out back.”

    The injured gunman was Vasata. He was found dumped in front of a BMW on a street in Paseos, a neighborhood a few streets south of Mohawk, according to police reports. He was shot twice in the lower back and buttocks and was hospitalized for more than six weeks at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

    While there, Vasata spoke candidly with police officers. In one instance, he said he had just killed three people and was looking at heaven, but later claimed he didn't say it.

    "I'm looking at death row, a needle in my arm. I'm looking at least at (three) life sentences. I'm laying here and I haven't even started my punishment," police records said.

    Vasata was arrested March 20, 2017, more than a month after the fatal shootings. Vorpagel was sure the other two would be arrested soon afterward.

    “I’m sure (Vasata) will give up the other two shooters once they press him,” Vorpgael wrote.

    But it was DNA that got a second gunman.

    Steward, who most recently lived in suburban West Palm Beach, was suspected in the beginning because his cellphones were found in the BMW that Vasata was dumped in front of. Steward explained to police that he left them in there earlier that night because he bought marijuana from Vasata. Further DNA analysis was completed late in 2017 and Steward was arrested Nov. 28.

    Though Vorpagel insists there were three gunmen, Jupiter police have said their case is closed. Police have never addressed the third alleged shooter.

    In the letters, Vorpagel wrote that a friend of his told him that at one of the funerals, mutual friends of his and those who were killed were blaming him for the deaths.

    “It sux so I’m doing everything I can to help find these guys,” he wrote.

    He said his own family was having problems, too. Vorpagel wrote his mother had news crews parked outside her house and that his sister was afraid to leave her home after the slayings because “one of the shooters lives across the street from her” in Jupiter.

    “He still hasn’t been charged yet,” according to Vorpagel’s undated letter.

    It’s unclear who that person is, but records indicate Vasata lived off South Delaware Boulevard, just north of Mohawk Street.

    “I feel like my situation has ruined a lot of (expletive) and caused a lot of problems for my loved ones. But ya know, time heals just about everything.”

    https://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news...8awaYVch8dKNN/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  6. #6
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    Jupiter triple homicide suspect asks judge to declare FL death penalty law unconstitutional

    By Aylssa Hyman
    WPTV.com

    JUPITER, Fla. - One of the suspects accused in the Jupiter triple homicide from Super Bowl Sunday night last year is asking a Palm Beach County judge to declare Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional.

    Prosecutors have already announced they intend to seek the death penalty against

    Christopher Vasata who faces three counts of first degree murder.

    Vasata was the first suspect arrested and charged with the murders of Sean Henry, 26, Brandi El-Salhy, 24, and 20-year-old Kelli Doherty. All three were gunned down at a 2017 Super Bowl party on Mohawk Street in Jupiter.

    Vasata was also injured in the shooting, and reportedly confessed to the killings from his hospital bed, but later denied his responsibility.

    Early on, prosecutors filed their notice of intent to seek the death penalty.

    Now, his defense attorney has filed a motion asking the judge to declare Florida’s death penalty law unconstitutional.

    “Basically the defense is saying the law is over broad, that not every murder that occurs is appropriate for the ultimate sanction of death,” said defense attorney Gregg Lerman, who has tried several death penalty cases himself.

    He says while it’s unlikely, if a judge does rule in Vasata’s favor, it could set a precedent eliminating the death penalty at least in Palm Beach County and possibly in the state.

    “You never know. We’ve all been surprised, but I more fully expect this to be setting up for the future than for the now,” said Lerman.

    Lerman says what’s likely happening is that the defense is filing it now so that if Vasata is convicted and sentenced to death, they have the ability to appeal it down the line.

    “Is it a Hail Mary? Sure. Maybe you get that judge that does stand up and do what we believe is the right thing, but you have to preserve the record for the future. “

    Lerman says it is fairly rare for some to get the death penalty in Palm Beach County. There are also recent changes to the law require a 12 person jury to decide on death unanimously.

    The second suspect arrested in this case, Marcus Steward, is also facing the death penalty.

    https://www.wptv.com/news/region-n-palm-beach-county/jupiter/jupiter-triple-homicide-suspect-asks-judge-to-declare-fl-death-penalty-law-unconstitutional
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  7. #7
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    JUST IN: May trial date set for man accused in Jupiter triple murders

    By Jorge Milian
    Palm Beach Post

    WEST PALM BEACH — The jury trial of a man who faces the death penalty in the murders of three people in Jupiter last year will begin May 3, a judge ordered Wednesday.

    Christopher Vasata, 26, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder as well as other felony charges in the Feb. 5, 2017, shooting deaths of Brandi El-Salhy, 24, of Gainesville, Kelli J. Doherty, 20, of Tequesta, and Sean P. Henry, 26, of Jupiter.

    Vasata, who has been in custody since March 2017, appeared in Circuit Judge Joseph Marx’s courtroom Wednesday but did not speak.

    Marx said 200 potential jurors will be set aside for Vasata’s case.

    Marcus Jamal Steward, 25, of Riviera Beach also is facing three counts of first-degree murder in addition to one count of attempted murder. Steward is expected back in court Dec. 18 for a status check, but no trial date has been set in his case. Steward has remained in the Palm Beach County Jail without bond since he was arrested Nov. 28.

    Vasata was shot twice in the lower back and buttocks on the night of the murders at 1105 Mohawk St. in the Jupiter River Estates neighborhood north of Toney Penna Drive and east of Maplewood Drive.

    A Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy said he found the injured Vasata after he stumbled out of the back seat of a car in the 100 block of Paseos Way and collapsed on the street, about 1.5 miles from the Mohawk Street house.

    While recovering, Jupiter police say Vasata confessed to the murders, telling an officer, “Here I am, looking at heaven. I just killed three people and I’m looking at heaven.”

    He later denied making the statement.

    https://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news...aIuxghJRw5jSI/
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  8. #8
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    Jupiter triple murder suspect in court

    By Tori Simkovic
    WPBF West Palm Beach

    WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Christopher Vasata appeared in court Tuesday for a hearing ahead of his trial in May.

    Vasata is accused of opening fire at a party in Jupiter on Super Bowl Sunday in 2017.

    He faces the death penalty, charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and other felony charges.

    At the hearing, the judge told state prosecutors to bring witness Charles Vorpagel to South Florida for questioning. Vorpagel, the surviving victim in this case, is in federal prison in Mississippi on drugs and weapons charges.

    The trial is expected to start in May, but both sides will meet later this month to make sure they’re ready for trial.

    The three main issues that will be instrumental in jury selection are pretrial publicity, the death penalty and the anticipated length of the trial.

    https://www.wpbf.com/article/jupiter...court/26799112
    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

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