Sentinel Staff Writer
November 20, 2008
A second jury was convinced of his guilt, but stopped short of recommending a death sentence for Roy Lee McDuffie, the Orlando man convicted of killing two co-workers and robbing a Deltona Dollar General store.
McDuffie, 45, on Wednesday received two consecutive life sentences in the deaths of Janice Schneider and Dawniell Beauregard, a third life term for robbing the store of $7,000, and an additional 15 years for holding Beauregard against her will.
The jury for his retrial recommended life in prison, unlike the first jury, which unanimously agreed he should be executed.
Several family members of the victims thought it was unfair that he wouldn't get the death penalty, but Schneider's sister, Kelli Lee, understood their decision.
"I only wanted death for him because he killed my sister. But I can't say that if I was on any other jury that I could vote for death," Lee said.
"I just wish I had answers from him. Why?"
McDuffie got a second trial for the 2002 killings when the Florida Supreme Court threw out his first conviction. The case was moved out of Volusia County to find an impartial jury.
For nearly four weeks, a St. Johns County jury learned about the bloody scene in the cramped back office of the store on Oct. 25, 2002. Beauregard was bound with duct tape, her throat was slashed and she was shot in the head at close range. Schneider was slashed in the neck and was shot in her abdomen and in her head.
McDuffie was the last person with them, and prosecutors showed time gaps in his whereabouts that night. Despite his desperate financial situation, he was flush with cash after the killings. And his palm print was found on a piece of duct tape that bound Beauregard's hands.
It was enough to convict him both times. However, the St. Augustine jury took more than 12 hours to agree he was guilty and on Wednesday, at least half of the jurors didn't want him executed.
McDuffie's attorney, Rob Sanders, thought some jurors may have had doubts. The defense focused on problems with the evidence -- whether the duct tape was reconstructed properly, whether investigators ignored leads and whether unidentified DNA evidence pointed to other culprits.
"They wrestled for 12 1/2 hours, guilty or not guilty," Sanders said. "I think this was a compromise verdict."
McDuffie didn't take the stand this time and didn't want his family to testify during the penalty phase. The second trial also lacked jailhouse informants from the first trial.
And Assistant State Attorney Colleen Taylor said this second jury also didn't hear about McDuffie's long history of felony convictions, or the lies he told to get the job.
"They have a very different picture of the defendant as a person," Taylor said. "The first jury knew more about him. They knew more about the real Roy Lee McDuffie."
Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at email@example.com or 386-253-0964.