TAVARES — Jurors Thursday wanted to listen again to audio of the eyewitness testimony against Andrew Williams, and his initial statements to police, but it wasn’t long afterward before they announced their verdict: Guilty of first-degree murder.
Senior Judge Larry Semento imposed the mandatory life sentence without parole.
'Why would you do it?':Cause of shooting a mystery in Lake County murder trial
'Scared, devastated, distraught'
Williams took the stand in his own defense, saying he was in fear for his life when he opened fire on Devante Carthers in the back seat of his girlfriend’s car in on May 28, 2018.
“That’s what he said in his statement to police,” defense attorney Vivionne Barker told the Daily Commercial.
But prosecutors had an ace in the hole, an eyewitness.
“The evidence was inconsistent with his story,” said Assistant Nick Camuccio.
Even better, for the state, the eyewitness was Williams’ girlfriend.
“I was scared, devastated, distraught” Macheryl Williams testified. “I was scared for my life.”
She said Andrew had called her and wanted her to take him to various places, including picking up his car, which Carathers had borrowed.
Carthers then called in the early morning hours of May 28, 2018, wanting a ride.
She said the two men were arguing. Carthers was “snapping” at Williams, she said.
She testified that she had heard them arguing before, and didn’t think much about it, when Williams turned and started blazing away with a handgun.
She said he threatened to kill her if she told anyone, made her drive to a dirt road near Eustis, and dumped the body out of the car.
He made her stop at a friend’s house’ of his to get cleaning supplies to try to clean up the car, despite the fact that the car now had two telltale bullet holes that penetrated the rear passenger door.
She said when they pulled into a convenience store in Eustis and she saw what she believed to be a police officer, he got out and she took off, driving to her mother’s house, where she called 911.
“Why would you do it?” she had asked him. “Why did you kill this man?”
He never explained but prosecutors had a theory, which they were not allowed to present during the trial.
What about a motive?
Less than a month earlier, on March 30, 2018, Eustis police discovered the body of Joshua Brown, 28, at the intersection of Glover Street and Orange Avenue. Nearby was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.
The investigation led to Williams.
Williams said he was riding in car with Brown and Carthers when Brown pointed the rifle at Carthers. Williams said he stopped the car because Brown was firing the rifle out the window, and he and Brown got out of the vehicle and started struggling over the weapon.
Williams said “the gun discharged four or five times, at which time Brown collapsed. The defendant stated he dropped the rifle and fled the scene. [He] stated that he was friends with Brown and they never had any prior arguments,” according to court documents.
He said Brown was upset over a drug deal.
Under Florida law, prosecutors can ask the court to allow evidence of a prior incident, but it must be practically identical to the new case. Defense attorneys argue such evidence is merely shown to put their client in a bad light. Judges rarely allow it, and he did not allow it in this case. However, prosecutors are not required to prove a motive.
Jurors, of course, want to hear about a motive. In Williams’ case, they also did not learn who shot Williams in the leg about 11 hours after Carthers was murdered.
“We don’t know,” Camuccio said.
Andrew, who was 24 at the time, made his statement to police about shooting Carthers from a hospital room where he was recovering from his gunshot wound the next day.
Carthers, 25, had a violent history. In 2010, he was convicted of shooting into an occupied vehicle and possession of a firearm by a juvenile. In March 26 of 2018, he allegedly pulled a gun on a man who was talking to his girlfriend.
This article originally appeared on Daily Commercial: Jury finds Lake County man guilty of murder, judge sentences him to life