Jurors find man guilty of murder, attempted murder
It took jurors about three hours to find Kevin Daniels guilty on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and burglary of a dwelling with a firearm stemming from a 2014 shooting that left a man dead.
Daniels, 42, was charged with first-degree murder of Raymond Perry and attempted first-degree murder of Daniels’ estranged wife, Alzetta Esau, at her Palatka home July 15, 2014.
Earlier this week, Esau — who was dating Perry at the time of the attack — said Daniels entered her home about 1:30 a.m. during a slumber party with children present, and shot Perry and then pointed a gun at her. Esau said Daniels fired at her once and missed. As she played dead, Esau said he attempted to shoot again, but the gun didn’t fire and he exited the house.
Daniels’ girlfriend, Kim Foster, said the defendant arrived at her East Palatka home and asked for a ride to Georgia, where he was eventually apprehended. Authorities found Daniels’ silver van soon after. Investigators said Daniels’ last outgoing cellphone call was 10 minutes prior to Perry’s death and pinged at a cell tower about a mile from Esau’s home.
Seventh Judicial Circuit Court Assistant State Attorney Mark Johnson and Daniels’ attorney, Garry Wood, offered closing statements, with Johnson receiving a short rebuttal.
Johnson said Daniels’ familiarity with Esau’s residence and multiple witnesses’ testimony, including Esau, Foster, children at the party and a neighbor, indicated the shooting was premeditated.
“He did this when he thought everybody would be asleep. He had thought about this,” Johnson said. “From the time that he got this gun, he had time to think about what he was going to do.”
Wood said several elements of the case were cast under reasonable doubt because of the lack of physical evidence such as DNA. He added the firearm was never found.
Based on Esau’s testimony, Wood said, Daniels and Esau were in good standing prior to the incident, showing jurors text messages exchanged between the two.
“At no time does Mr. Daniels say, ‘If you don’t get back with me, I’m going to come over there and shoot you, or hurt you or break into your house,’” Wood said. “That’s not in the state’s evidence.”
Wood said the cellphone data was “pure speculation.”
“Do the records say where Mr. Daniels was, assuming he made the call?” Wood said. “You can’t say what address or what street.”
Johnson said he felt the verdict was just after a four-year wait.
“We’re pleased obviously. These cases are always very difficult, and this one took about four years to go to trial,” Johnson said. “We’re happy the jury saw the evidence as we saw it and did the right thing.”
The sentencing hearing was tentatively set for 1:30 p.m. May 25.
Wood said he would file for a retrial on Daniels’ behalf before a sentencing hearing.
“Certainly it was our goal to find him not guilty. We thought there was sufficient reasonable doubt as to the proof against him on the charges, and we still maintain that position,” Wood said. “Now, we’ll go on to the next phase, which is the filing for a retrial and appeal.”