Monday, November 3, 2008

Retrial in Dollar General murders begins in St. Augustine

Staff writer

ST. AUGUSTINE -- Six Octobers ago, a 14-year-old boy waited for his mother to pick him up at a football game in Deltona but she never showed up, a prosecutor said Thursday.

"Janice Schneider never arrived. She was dead inside a Deltona Dollar General Store," Assistant State Attorney Colleen Taylor said during her opening statements in the retrial of Roy Lee McDuffie.

Schneider, 39, and Dawnielle Beauregard, 27, both of Deltona, were found dead at 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2002, in the manager's office of the discount store at 1200 Deltona Blvd., Taylor said. Beauregard's throat had been slit and she was shot in the back of the head. Schneider also had a gunshot wound to the abdomen and stab wounds, Taylor said.

McDuffie, 45, of Orlando is being retried for the murders after Florida Supreme Court justices overturned his March 2005 conviction and death sentence in November 2007, saying McDuffie did not get a fair trial.

McDuffie is being tried on two counts of first-degree murder, robbery with a firearm and false imprisonment, and faces the death penalty if convicted on the murder charges.

Prosecutors expect to take seven to 10 working days to make their case and defense attorneys expect to take at least three days to present their arguments.

If McDuffie is found guilty, the trial will go into a penalty phase, expected to take at least another week.

Taylor said Thursday the evidence will show McDuffie's partial palm print was found on a piece of duct tape used to bind Beauregard's hands behind her back. There also is proof that McDuffie was broke, desperate for money, and killed the two women to rob the store of more than $7,000, Taylor said.

That Friday in October 2002 was like any other Friday for Schneider and Beauregard, who came to the store to work and planned to go home afterward, Taylor said.

"(But) there was one person who knew that they would never leave that store that night," Taylor said, pointing to McDuffie.

Defense attorney Rob Sanders countered, telling jurors the prosecutors have an unsolved murder case and want to pin it on McDuffie based "upon questionable identification." Sanders told the jury evidence will show there was a complete lack of investigation by law enforcement.

"Evidence will show that Mr. McDuffie and his wife, Troy, made over $54,000 that year," Sanders said. "We don't think the state knows who committed this crime. The defense believes this is more likely a robbery gone bad or a possible hit made to look like a robbery."

Schneider's common-law husband, Ted Teixeira, collected insurance money from Schneider's death without telling her daughter, Sanders told the jury.

"We believe that he may have had knowledge of the crime," Sanders said.

Sanders told the jury sheriff's deputies failed to properly investigate the crime and that the blood of another unknown person was found on a door handle and floor of the store's restrooms.

"The DNA did not match that of the victims or Roy Lee McDuffie," Sanders said. "DNA taken from a hair showed it was a mixture of Dawnielle Beauregard's and the DNA of an unknown person."

The trial will continue Monday.

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