Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jurors view interrogation of killer now fighting death sentence

Rusty, son of murder victims Glyn and Vivian Fowler, leans forward to listen as the guilty verdict is read for David Snelgrove. His sister, Pam, fights back tears while family friend Michael comforts her in the Flagler County courtroom. (Photo: News-Journal/David Tucker)

Staff Writer

BUNNELL -- An edited video shows investigators questioning David Snelgrove two days after he stabbed and beat to death an elderly Palm Coast couple during a burglary in 2000.

Circuit Judge Kim Hammond ruled Wednesday that jurors could see the video, saying it showed Snelgrove's demeanor and ability to communicate.

"I don't think one can conclude that it's an absolute test of competence," Hammond said.

Jurors must decide whether to recommend if Snelgrove, 35, should spend the rest of his life in prison or return to death row.

A cocaine user, Snelgrove broke into his neighbors' house on June 23, 2000, looking for money to support his habit. He stabbed and beat to death Glyn Fowler, 84, and his wife, Vivian, 79, in their bedroom.

In the video, Snelgrove denies killing the couple after an investigator repeatedly asks him the same questions. He says he loves to play pinochle because it makes him think. He points to cuts on his body, saying they were caused by gas-powered sheers he used to trim hedges during his job as a groundskeeper.

"I did cut my hand at work," Snelgrove said after an investigator told him his boss denied it.

Snelgrove's defense attorneys had argued Wednesday the tape was irrelevant and jurors could not determine if Snelgrove had a mental illness merely by looking at the tape. The defense has argued Snelgrove might be mentally retarded, has brain damage, and cocaine impaired his judgment.

But prosecutors said the tape would give jurors an idea of a day in the life of Snelgrove when he wasn't high on cocaine, when he spoke clearly and could process information. An expert witness for the state said he did not see a brain abnormality on an imaging scan, contradicting a defense expert's testimony from the day before.

A jury convicted Snelgrove of the murders in 2002, voting 7-5 to recommend the death penalty. Because jurors had one sentencing recommendation for two murders, and because the vote was split, the Florida Supreme Court reversed Snelgrove's death sentence in 2005. His conviction stuck.

The jury might begin deliberations today.

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