A jury took three hours to decide that newlywed Felicia Fine's death was premeditated 1st degree murder by her husband, Charles Edwin Duke, 24, condemning him to spend the rest of his life in state prison.
The decision on Friday, Oct. 29, came two weeks after what would have been their first wedding anniversary and 358 days after Duke fired one shot from a single-shot .45 caliber handgun into Fine's head at the Rosewood home the couple shared with Duke's friend Justin White.
Duke was also convicted of the false imprisonment of White for forcing the roommate to accompany him to two stores, a party, and a popular mud bogging site near Bronson before negotiating White's release to law enforcement officers. Duke was charged with kidnapping.
Eighth Judicial Circuit Judge David A. Glant only waited long enough for Duke to change into red-and-white-striped prison clothing and be shackled at the waist and ankles before sentencing him to life in prison on the murder charge and five years on the imprisonment charge. Glant ordered that the sentences be served concurrently.
"This brings to a close a very unhappy case," Glant said.
Because the state no longer has parole, Duke will spend the rest of his life in prison said Assistant State Attorney Sean Brewer, who along with Assistant State Attorney Glenn Bryan, prosecuted the case.
Public Defender Michael Bryant had his work cut out for him in defending Duke as the prosecution played Levy County Sheriff's Department recordings of calls between dispatch and Duke on Nov. 4, 2009, the day he killed her and took White on their ride across the county. Duke also did not testify in his defense, spending most of the trial looking down at the table and writing on a notepad.
In those calls Duke admitted — and in one instance almost sounded boastful — that he had killed his wife.
The couple had just returned from a honeymoon in St. Augustine. It was Fine's first day back at work at the Island Hotel in Cedar Key. When she returned home the couple fought over money and Duke's drinking.
After it ended, his wife went over to a stack of DVDs by their big screen television and Duke picked up the handgun that belonged to White, Bryan said in his opening statement in a recurring theme for his closing as well..
"He picks up a single action 45, cocks it and fires," Bryan told the jury of six women and six men. "Then he cocks it and fires again."
Bryan said the first shot hit Fine on the left side of her head, killing her instantly and knocking her to the floor. The second shot, Bryan said, went into the TV, ricocheted and landed on the floor by Fine's arm.
Duke then went into White's room, where he was napping, woke him and said, "Get up I shot the bitch," Bryan said.
After that Duke went to the Cypress Station and Dollar General in Rosewood, taking White with him, to buy beer, cigarettes and a cooler, back to the house where he said goodbye to Fine and loaded up several loaded guns in his truck. Duke drove and the two stopped at a party at a private home near an area known as the "power lines" where electric transmission lines cross property between Bronson and Trenton on County Road 337. They hung out at the party before heading on to a spot where mudboggers drive their trucks in wetlands.
Duke's attorney denied the shooting was premeditated, relying on statements Duke make to officers that it was a spur of the moment action, that something "just snapped." Bryant asked the jury to consider convicting Duke of the lesser charge of manslaughter to avoid the mandatory life sentence.
Several of Duke's co-workers at Adena Springs farm testified that Duke told them if he ever caught Fine cheating he would kill her. "He wanted to blow his wife's head off," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Bryant said there was no evidence that Duke caught his wife cheating. "You have a young man in a state of shock and confusion and the evidence will show that he wanted to die too," Bryant said.
Sheriff's Investigator Scott Tummond told the jury that Duke was worried about losing his job and being unable to support his wife and that he thought about a murder-suicide.
In arguing that the jury should not convict Duke of kidnapping, Bryant said the evidence showed that White "stayed with his best friend to the end ... that this was one last day of hanging out with his homeboy."
In the closing argument, prosecuting attorney Bryan gave a vivid example for the jury of his interpretation of the premeditation charge. "It means you reflected on it," he said. "The law does not say how long.
And picking up the remote control for the computer projector he used in the case, said, "It's like you watching TV and you think about changing channels and you pick up the remote and go click and then you don't like that so you go click.
"Charles Duke took longer than that to think about murdering his wife."