Saturday, August 2, 2008

State to seek death penalty in Caylor case

PANAMA CITY — The State Attorney's Office filed notice Monday of its intention to seek the death penalty against Matthew Caylor, the man accused of raping and killing a 13-year-old girl at a Panama City motel.

Caylor, 33, of Auburn, Ga., was indicted last week in the July 8 death of Melinda Denise Hinson at the Valu-Lodge motel. The indictment charged him with first-degree premeditated and felony murder, plus sexual battery with great bodily force and aggravated child abuse.

Hinson's family had been staying at the motel for a few weeks, having moved to the area last year from Henderson, Ky. Melinda went missing the evening of July 8 as she was walking to a nearby room to walk the neighbor's dog.

Her body was found July 10 under the bed in a room in the motel.

State Attorney Steve Meadows signed the notice, saying the state would rely on three aggravators to try to gain the death sentence: that Caylor was a convicted felon and under sentence of imprisonment or probation at the time of the killing; that he killed Hinson while he was committing the offense of aggravated child abuse; and the killing was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.

The state has to prove to a jury at least two of the aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt to legally sustain a death sentence. The Florida Supreme Court regularly has rejected death sentences based on a single aggravating factor.

Caylor's attorney predicted two weeks ago the state would seek the death penalty in the case. The state, however, doesn't usually announce its intent so quickly in the process.

Caylor has not been arraigned on the new charges. He is scheduled to appear before a judge Aug. 21 for a formal reading of his charges and the beginning of the discovery process.

State Attorney's Office spokesman Joe Grammer said Caylor's case made it into a pre-planned death penalty committee meeting last week.

"If we hadn't had that meeting planned, we wouldn't have done (Caylor's case) that fast," Grammer said. "The other two cases we dealt with were much older."

By David Angier

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