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Longboat Key Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 4 years ago

Longboat murder suspect will plead not guilty, defender says

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Prosecutors are still deciding on final charges ahead of what's expected to be a lengthy trial.
by: Ryan Butler News Innovation Editor

The Aug. 9 arrest of Darryl Hanna Jr. in the shooting deaths of a Zota Beach Resort night manager and security guard was just the beginning.

Hanna, a 28-year-old Bradenton resident and former employee of Victory Security Florida, will be arraigned in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit Court on Sept. 9, at which time he will formally enter a plea. He faces two charges of second-degree murder and one count of robbery in the incident that took the lives of night desk manager Timothy Hurley and security guard Kevin Carter over a $900 robbery on Aug. 4.

Hanna is being held in the Manatee County Jail without bond.

Shortly after releasing hotel security camera footage from the night of the homicides, law enforcement officers received a tip that the person in the video walked in a similar manner to Hanna. Investigators said in an affidavit they discovered the individual’s shoes and pants resembled pairs Hanna owned. They also found social media posts where Hanna said he owned a 9 mm pistol, the same caliber of weapon police say was used in the killings.

Hanna worked at Zota as a part time security guard with Victory Security and told his co-workers with not getting more hours, police reports said. The same reports said Hanna was the only Victory employee not to call the company to find out about the homicide.

The state is now working to see if evidence developed in the investigation will be enough to not just charge Hanna but also convict him before a jury. In the coming days, the state will likely convene a grand jury, which could deliver an indictment on first-degree charges.

In Florida, first degree murders and second degree murders are differentiated by premeditation. The state must prove in court to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to and subsequently carried out a murder. A second degree murder charge doesn’t require the state to prove intent, but it requires proof to a jury that the defendant committed an act that could reasonably kill someone, was done with ill will and with an indifference for human life.

State law also allows an automatic first-degree murder charge in the case of a robbery.

The biggest difference ultimately is in the penalty phase: a first-degree conviction could result in the death penalty. Life without parole is also a possibility. Second degree murder is also punishable by life imprisonment, but there is some discretion by the courts to determine the length of the sentence.

The state has 30 days from the date of arrest to file charges. Hanna’s Attorney, public defender Frank Roberts, said his client will plead not guilty.

A trial is likely months away. The State Attorney's office did not disclose the case's lead prosecutor.

Assuming Hanna goes forward with his not guilty plea, the defense and prosecution will begin the discovery phase of the trial, where both sides will research case facts, talk to witnesses and disclose to each other further investigations into the homicides. The trial, the first to involve a homicide in Longboat Key since 2000, could take weeks in itself.

“We’re in the very early stages,” Roberts said. “People should not expect this kind of case to be resolved quickly.”

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