Girlfriend of murdered FAU student tearfully testifies

Through tears, the longtime girlfriend of slain Florida Atlantic University student Nicholas Acosta on Tuesday haltingly described the violence that erupted seconds after she opened the door of her Boca Raton apartment for what was suppose to be a routine drug deal.

Donovan Henry
Donovan Henry shortly after his arrest. His hair has been cut short for the trial.

While Kayla Bartosiewicz had difficulty articulating exactly what happened in the horror-filled seconds, she firmly identified 19-year-old Donovan Henry as the young man she let in on December 29, 2015, believing the fellow student simply wanted to buy some marijuana from her boyfriend. However, minutes after Henry and a younger man came into the apartment in University Park, three other men Bartosiewicz said she didn’t know barged in.

After screaming at them to, “Get on the ground,” one of the men shot Acosta twice, killing him, she testified.

Nicholas Max Acosta
Nicholas Max Acosta

Attorney Scott Skier, who represents Henry, who is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and armed burglary, hasn’t yet given his opening statements in which he explains to jurors Henry’s version of events. But, while questioning Bartosiewicz, Skier offered hints of his defense strategy. He indicated that he will argue that Henry had no plans to kill Acosta. In court papers, he has said Alexander Gillis, who police say was the shooter, masterminded the murder without Henry’s knowledge. Gillis and Adonis Gillis are awaiting trial.

A freshman, majoring in engineering and playing on FAU’s soccer team, Henry was friends with Acosta, Skier insisted. But, while Bartosiewicz acknowledged that both she and Acosta had seen Henry at a party and that Henry had bought pot from Acosta at least three times before, she rejected Skier’s intimation that the two were friends.

She firmly answered “no” when Skier asked whether Henry and Acosta had embraced when he entered the apartment. “That didn’t happen,” she said. But, she said, Acosta knew Henry well enough to give him the electronic code so he could enter the apartment.

Under questioning by Assistant State Attorney Brian Fernandes, she also acknowledged that she initially lied to police about Acosta’s illicit business and didn’t tell them that the intruders stole a quarter-pound bag of pot on their way out.

“I didn’t want Nick to be remembered that way,” she said. “Because he was so much more than that.”

The star witness is expected to be Rodrick Woods, who was allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder after agreeing to testify against the others.

The trial is expected to wrap up Friday or Monday.

 

 

Joseph Walker sentenced to life for murder of girlfriend’s brother

gavelTaking the life of his girlfriend’s disabled brother earned Joseph Walker a trip to spend the rest of his own life in prison, a judge decided Friday.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentenced the 22-year-old to life in prison in at the end of a short hearing that comes nearly a month after a jury convicted Walker of second-degree murder in the March 2013 stabbing death of 38-year-old Tyrone Richardson.

Prosecutors in his trial claimed that Walker killed Richardson in anger after Richardson told him to stop dating his sister, Rhandi.

Walker later claimed he stabbed Richardson in self-defense.

Walker’s relatives in letters to Marx on his behalf described him as a loving brother who doted on his nieces and nephews, helped his mother and had aspirations for a career as a physical therapist.

“Wrong place at the wrong time,” Walker’s uncle, Ellis Green, said about his nephew’s case. “He’s praying and the family is praying. I hope for the best. Not for the worst.”

At the time of his death, Richardson lived in an independent living facility. His sister had asked if she and Walker could stay with him on the night he was killed because Walker’s mother had kicked him out of the house and Walker had plans to move to Georgia the next day.

According to arrest reports, Richardson hesitated, asking his sister to call their parents and get their approval first.

Walker in 2014 was on probation, having been found guilty in December 16, 2011 of robbery with a firearm and dealing in stolen property.

Lake Worth man gets life in first degree murder of pregnant wife

LAKE WORTH — Donna Rowley Daniels moved from Florida to Ohio last May to live with Jenny Johnston, who says she cared for Daniels like her own daughter. Paul Daniels was living with his two teenage children next door. He and Donna Daniels met and quickly fell in love. "He became smitten with her. He said he loved her more than anything in the world," Johnston said in a phone interview Thursday. The two married in August, and were expecting a baby. The couple and the teens moved into a rented unit in a triplex on Stevens Road in suburban Lake Worth in December. Early Thursday morning, their home was blocked off with crime scene tape. Donna Daniels, 27, was found lying face down in a white Mitsubishi with multiple gun shot wounds in her back. Paul Daniels, 36, was found lying next to the car on the ground with a gunshot wound in his head and a 9 mm handgun next to him. Detectives say Paul Daniels shot his wife, who was five months pregnant, shot his 13-year-old son in the leg and then shot himself in the head. Daniels was charged with first-degree murder. Now at Delray Medical Center, he is expected to survive his injuries. His son was released Thursday from Delray Medical Center. Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputies arrived at 4482 Stevens Rd. at about 2 a.m. and found Paul Daniels' son and 12-year-old daughter outside crying, according to a sheriff's office probable cause affidavit. The girl told deputies that her father and his wife were fighting when Paul Daniels pulled out a gun and shot his wife, the affidavit said. "I thought he was going to shoot me so I ran," she said. Officials with the state Department of Children and Families, which initiated an investigation hours after the incident, said the boy and girl have been placed together in a foster home. "The children are safe and well," said DCF spokesman Mark Riordan. The agency is exploring options to place children with relatives, he said. Vivian Chao, who lives in the same triplex
LAKE WORTH — Donna Rowley Daniels moved from Florida to Ohio last May to live with Jenny Johnston, who says she cared for Daniels like her own daughter.
Paul Daniels was living with his two teenage children next door. He and Donna Daniels met and quickly fell in love. The two married in August 2011, and were expecting a baby.
Detectives say Paul Daniels shot his wife, who was five months pregnant, shot his 13-year-old son in the leg and then shot himself in the head.
Daniels was charged with first-degree murder.

UPDATE 2:31 p.m.: A Palm Beach County jury has convicted Paul Daniels of first-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of his pregnant wife.

The verdict, which came after less than two hours of deliberations Wednesday, means the Lake Worth man faced a mandatory life in prison sentence.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentenced him immediately after the verdict.

ORIGINAL POST: A Palm Beach County jury is now deciding the murder trial of Paul Daniels, the 40-year-old Lake Worth man accused in the 2012 shooting death of his  pregnant wife, Donna.

Assistant State Attorneys Reid Scott and Kristen Grimes this week have called Daniels’ actions in the early hours of March 1, 2012 a clear-cut case of premeditated murder that the couple’s own children witnessed after they argued at their home in the 4400 Block of Stevens Road.

The children later told police that Donna Daniels, who was five months pregnant, ran out of the house around 2:30 a.m. Paul Daniels followed her out with a gun shot her five times in the back, and then tried to kill himself.

Donna Daniels, 27, was found lying face down in a white Mitsubishi with multiple gun shot wounds in her back. Paul Daniels, 36, was found lying next to the car on the ground with a gunshot wound in his head and a 9 mm handgun next to him.

“He’d had enough of her,” Grimes told jurors. “They’d been fighting all day, maybe that baby wasn’t his. Try as she might, she wasn’t going anywhere.”

Defense attorneys Ruth Martinez-Estes and Jennifer Klee, on the other hand, have argued that Daniels is guilty of nothing more than the lesser charge of culpable negligence.

Martinez-Estes told jurors that witnesses in the case lied in their testimony to protect Donna Daniels, who records show was using drugs at the time of her death.

In spite of their troubles nad her drug use, Martinez- Estes said, Daniels was still there for his wife, and still loved her.

“He did not want to kill his wife,” Martinez-Estes said. “He just had a lapse of judgement that day. He was not himself.”

The last arguments jurors heard before they began deliberating at noon were from Scott, who described how Daniels stood over his wife and shot her five times.

“This wasn’t a sudden event. This had been brewing, they had been fighting, Scott said. “Reasonable people cool off. Reasonable people don’t do this, murderers do this.”

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sent jurors back to begin deliberations at noon Wednesday.

 

 

Belle Glade man sentenced to life for murder during 2015 fight

dwane-lowersA 21-year-old Belle Glade man was sentenced  to life in prison Thursday immediately after a jury convicted him in the shooting death of a 23-year-old man during a fight last year.

Dwane Lowers’ first-degree murder trial began last week and ended Monday with closing arguments from defense attoreny Thomas Weiss and Assistant State Attorneys Jill Richstone and Reid Scott.

Jurors returned the guilty verdict after several hours of deliberation, and – with life in prison the only possible sentence – Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentenced Lowers immediately.

Deputies arrested Lowers in July 2005, less than two weeks after he and other patrons from the nightclub Club Coco got into a fight in the parking lot of the

 

UPDATE: Love-Robinson to remain in Virginia jail without bail until Nov. hearing

LoveRobinson2_2Update 12:30 p.m.: Malachi Love-Robinson will remain without bail at the Rappahannock Regional Jail in Virginia until his next court date Nov. 18, according to Stafford General District Court records.

Original Story: A Florida judge revoked a $26,000 bond early Wednesday for Malachi Love-Robinson, the alleged fake teen doctor who police in Virginia say they caught last week trying to illegally buy a car.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx issued a warrant to return the 19-year-old to the Palm Beach County Jail, approving a request from Assistant State Attorney Mike Rachel to hold him without bail on charges of practicing medicine without a license, forgery, grand theft and other charges.

Those charges stem from a February arrest after a raid of the teen’s West Palm Beach holistic medicine practice and allegations that he used a check from a patient to try to make car payments.

According to authorities who arrested Love-Robinson in Stafford, Va., just south of Washington, D.C., last week, he tried to buy a Lexus at a dealership there accompanied by an elderly woman he said was co-signing for him.

The woman, however, said she never agreed to cosign for him, and representatives from the dealership said he presented a fake earnings statement.

Under the terms of his pre-trial release in Palm Beach County, Love-Robinson was not allowed to travel out of the state without notifying authorities, something Rachel told Marx he failed to do.

Love-Robinson as of Wednesday was still incarcerated in Virginia. Marx ruled that he will have to return to the Palm Beach County Jail upon his release.

West Palm teen gets six years’ prison in boyfriend death

2015003413The young woman who was just 17 when she shot her boyfriend to death while playing with a gun will spend the next six years in prison, a judge ruled Friday.

The sentence for Lety Hernandez came at the end of an emotional sentencing hearing for the manslaughter case that began shortly after the Dec. 30, 2014 incident where she put a gun to boyfriend Fredi Hernandez’s head and, thinking it wasn’t loaded, pulled the trigger.

Hernandez and one of the couple’s mutual friends at first told investigators that it was a suicide, but the friend later called and told them Hernandez had shot her boyfriend my accident after the two argued over whether he’d taken a Xanax pill.

Hernandez, who was pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby at the time, had a miscarriage.

“I’m sure there’s nothing I can say to get you to forgive me,” Hernandez told her boyfriend’s family as they sat in court Friday, his mother clutching a picture of him. “You lost a son, I lost a boyfriend and my best friend.”

Circuit Judge Krista Marx agreed with Assistant State Attorney Reid Scott that what Hernandez did was as reckless as a DUI manslaughter, and rejected claims from Assistant Public Defender Meagan Young and others that what happened was an accident.

But Marx did follow Young’s recommendation to sentence Hernandez as a youthful offender, citing her age at the time of the incident and lack of prior criminal record.

Marx’s sentence came with harsh words for the now 19-year-old woman, and before letting her go Marx called her sentence “the gift of a lifetime.”

Before giving her sentence, Marx called Fredi Hernandez’s mother up to the front of the courtroom and apologized to her.

“It’s not going to be enough, because it’s not going to bring him back,” Marx said of her sentence.

Trial delayed for alleged fake teen doc Malachi Love-Robinson

Malachi Love-Robinson leaves court after a hearing Wednesday morning, April 20, 2016. The teen is accused of posing as a doctor, operating New Birth New Life Medical Center in West Palm Beach.  (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Malachi Love-Robinson leaves court after a hearing Wednesday morning, April 20, 2016. The teen is accused of posing as a doctor, operating New Birth New Life Medical Center in West Palm Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

A judge on Monday agreed to delay the upcoming trial of Malachi Love-Robinson, the now 19-year-old accused of pretending to be a doctor and stealing money from at least one patient who visited his West Palm Beach practice.

Love-Robinson case was expected to go to trial next month, but Circuit Judge Krista Marx on Monday agreed to postpone the case until November – over prosecutors’ objections – so Love-Robinson’s attorney Leonard Feuer can pursue the viability of an insanity defense.

In a request filed last month, Feuer said the results of a court-ordered mental health evaluation for Love-Robinson led him to explore the option of forming a defense surrounding the teen’s mental state.

Marx on Monday also agreed to declare Love-Robinson indigent for court costs, which means the state will pay the nearly $1,500 cost of getting his personal medical records from St. Mary’s Hospital and for mental health experts to testify on his behalf.

According to court records, Love-Robinson’s family has been paying for him to undergo mental health treatment since his arrest in February, when a narcotics task force raided his West Palm Beach holistic medicine practice after he treated an undercover officer posing as a patient.

He was later rearrested on charges he allegedly forged a patient’s checks to pay towards a  car and other bills.

Love-Robinson earlier this year turned down a three-year prison plea offer. He faces a minimum eight years in prison if convicted of 10 charges that include practicing medicine without a license, forgery and grand theft from a person 65 years of age or older.

Accused fake teen doc fires lawyer; has three days to find a new one

Malachi Love-Robinson, a West Palm Beach teen accused of practicing medicine without a license, has until Thursday to hire a new lawyer after a judge on Monday said she has no intentions of delaying his trial set for next month.

Malachi Love-Robinson leaves court after a hearing Wednesday morning, April 20, 2016. The teen is accused of posing as a doctor, operating New Birth New Life Medical Center in West Palm Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Malachi Love-Robinson leaves court after a hearing in April. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

“Throw a stone, you’ll hit 10 lawyers,” Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx told Love-Robinson while approving his request to fire his current lawyer but rejecting his request for 30 days to hire a new one.

Attorney Craig Lawson, who was in court, said Love-Robinson has contacted him about representing him on various charges, including practicing medicine and naturopathy without a license, forgery and identity theft. He is also accused of stealing $2,800 in checks from an elderly woman’s home.

“If he comes up with the money, I’ll represent him,” Lawson said. He said he has no worries about preparing for a July 18 trial date. “I’m a former prosecutor. I can be ready for trial in a heartbeat,” he said.

Marx ordered Love-Robinson to return to court Thursday with a new lawyer in tow.

Love-Robinson, 19, made national headlines when he was arrested in February after a narcotics task force raided his West Palm Beach alternative medicine practice. Favoring white lab coats, adorned with a stethoscope, investigators said he visited banks, walked hospital hallways and treated patients, pretending to  be a doctor.

He has disputed the allegations, claiming he never masqueraded as a medical doctor. He said he used the title “doctor” because he earned a doctoral degree from Universal Life Church Seminary, an online institution, according to documents released by the Florida Department of Health. According to the seminary’s website, anyone can buy a doctorate in divinity for $29.95, the same price as bachelor’s or a master’s of divinity degree.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Rachel in April offered Love-Robinson a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for three years. The deal, Rachel said, is still on the table. “It’s up to him,” he said.

Lawson said Love-Robinson has indicated he plans to go to trial.

In addition to criminal charges, Grieco Mazda of Delray Beach in April got a $5,300 judgment against him. According to court records, he gave the dealership an $1,800 check for a down payment on a $27,000 Mazda. The check was rejected by a bank for insufficient funds.

 

Victor Diaz wins new trial, gets new judge in Three Amigos case

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentences Victor Salastier Diaz to life in prison Tuesday, January 26, 2016, consecutive to the 53 years he's already serving for an armed robbery at the Three Amigos convenience/check cashing store. He was convicted of murder, after one of the robbers shot 70-year-old motorist Samuel Salomon in a deadly car chase following the robbery. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentences Victor Salastier Diaz to life in prison Tuesday, January 26, 2016, consecutive to the 53 years he’s already serving for an armed robbery at the Three Amigos convenience/check cashing store. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Misconduct from a now-jailed juror who convicted him of murder earlier this year has earned Victor Salastier Diaz a new murder trial in a case where he is accused of participating in a robbery and riding in a getaway car when one of his accomplices shot and killed a motorist.

According to court records, Circuit Judge Krista Marx on Friday granted Diaz’s request for a new trial based on allegations of juror misconduct from Philip Elliott, who in a series of private messages with another juror claimed he knew both Marx and her husband personally and because of that felt Marx “went easy” on him when investigating misconduct claims after Diaz January trial.

Assistant Public Defender Joseph Walsh asked for a new trial on May 2 and also asked Marx to remove herself from the case.

Marx agreed to give Diaz a new trial and step aside Friday, the day after a contempt of court hearing where she sent Elliott to jail for eight days after giving him a scathing lecture.

Among her findings, Marx ruled that Elliott committed jurors misconduct by looking up words related to the case despite her instructions against it and encouraged fellow juror, Samantha Scalpi, to lie to the court in jurors interviews scheduled shortly after Scapli raised misconduct allegations surrounding the panel’s January verdict.

“You maligned the dignity of this court,” Marx said Thursday before ordering deputies to handcuff Elliott and take him to jail. “You showed a complete and total disregard for the judicial system.”

Elliott told Marx that he had a crush on Scalpi, was trying to get her to date him and was possibly intoxicated when writing parts of a series of Facebook messages between the two that ultimately became his undoing when Scalpi turned them over to lawyers in the case.

Friday’s ruling marks the second time in three years that a defendant in a high-profile Palm Beach County case has won a new trial based on juror misdeeds.

Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath in 2013 overturned a DUI manslaughter conviction for Wellington polo club founder John Goodman on the same day he initiated criminal contempt proceedings against Dennis DeMartin, the juror he eventually ordered to jail for five months and 29 days for a series of missteps DeMartin unwittingly revealed in a pair of self-published books after the trial.

DeMartin was released on an appellate bond after serving 37 days of his sentence. Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal later rejected his quest to have his sentence thrown out, but Colbath on Friday will consider a request to reduce his sentence.

As for Diaz, no new hearings had been set as of early Monday ahead of what will be his third trial in the case. He is one of seven men accused in the death of Samuel Salomon, who was shot and killed when one of the Three Amigos robbers fired at the grocery store owner during a chase.

Four others are serving life sentences and another, who testified against them, is serving an 18-year sentence. One who was arrested in Spain last year is awaiting trial.

Diaz in 2010 was convicted of armed robbery and burglary charges. Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, setting the stage for January’s trial.

 

PBC juror jailed for eight days for misconduct in Three Amigos trial

A Palm Beach County juror who in January helped convict a man in the 2007 death of a 70-year-old motorist who was shot after a robbery of the Three Amigos market was sent to jail for eight days on Thursday for jury misconduct.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentences Victor Salastier Diaz to life in prison Tuesday, January 26, 2016, consecutive to the 53 years he's already serving for an armed robbery at the Three Amigos convenience/check cashing store. He was convicted of murder, after one of the robbers shot 70-year-old motorist Samuel Salomon in a deadly car chase following the robbery. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Circuit Judge Krista Marx sentences Victor Salastier Diaz to life in prison in January. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

In a stern rebuke after a two-hour hearing, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Krista Marx found that Philip Elliott violated jury rules by looking up the definition of words during the trial of Victor Salastier Diaz and then encouraging another juror to lie that other violations had occurred in hopes of overturning the verdict.

“You maligned the dignity of this court,” Marx said before ordering deputies to handcuff Elliott, 45, and take him to jail. “You showed a complete and total disregard for the judicial system.”

Elliott claimed he was trying to woo fellow juror  Samantha Scalpi in a series of Facebook messages that were sent after the trial. “I had a crush on Samantha,” he said, adding that he may have been intoxicated when some of them were sent. “I said a lot of B.S. stuff.”

Scalpi was distraught after the verdict, indicating she had been bullied by other jurors to convict. “I said whatever she wanted to hear,” Elliott said.

Marx said she didn’t care about Elliott’s motives. Encouraging Scalpi to claim that jurors discussed the case during the trial, to say Elliott was friends with Marx’s husband, fellow Judge Joseph Marx, and to say that jurors had looked up information about Diaz’s co-defendants, was despicable, she said. She cleared Elliott, who works at a Palm Beach bike shop, of actually doing any of those things or of knowing her husband other than to sell a bike to him four years ago. But, she said suggesting that Scalpi falsely claim that such breaches had occurred was a serious violation of jury conduct.

Further, she said, Elliott admitted he looked up the meaning of the phrase “immediate scene,” during the trial despite repeatedly being told that jurors were barred from doing any independent research.

Elliott claimed he is dyslexic and simply wanted to understand the terms so he could weigh the evidence against Diaz.

“I don’t know if you know what the word truth means,” Marx said. “Perhaps you should look that up in your dictionary.”

Attorney Adam Farkas, who represented Elliott, said he could appeal Marx’s decision. But, he said, time is too short. By the time an appeal could be heard, Elliott would be out of jail.

Attorney Joseph Walsh, who represents Diaz, said he is weighing whether to again ask Marx to throw out the verdict. Marx has already rejected one request that the verdict be thrown out due to jury misconduct.

In his Diaz’s first trial in 2010, the jury convicted him of armed robbery and burglary charges but acquitted him of attempted murder charges and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge, splitting 7-5 in favor of acquittal. He was retried and convicted of murder in January and sentenced to life in prison.
Diaz is one of seven men accused in the 2007 death of Samuel Salomon, a retired baker was shot and killed when one of the Three Amigos robbers tried to shoot at the suburban Boynton Beach store owner after he got into his car and chased the robbers. Salomon, of suburban Delray Beach, was out shopping with his wife when he was hit by a stray bullet.

Check back for further updates.