Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Pair Found Guilty in Roommate's Death; Separate Juries Convict Couple of Murder, Robbery and Setting Body and Apartment on Fire

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Pair Found Guilty in Roommate's Death; Separate Juries Convict Couple of Murder, Robbery and Setting Body and Apartment on Fire

Article excerpt

Byline: SHANNAN BOWEN

Separate juries found a Jacksonville couple guilty Friday of murdering their 22-year-old roommate, robbing him and then setting his body and apartment on fire -- crimes prosecutors say were mimicked after they watched the 1994 movie Natural Born Killers.

Angus Wallen and Kara Winn, both 27, were tried separately and each convicted of first-degree murder, robbery and arson in the Dec. 18, 2004, crime. Separate juries for each defendant determined that Wallen and Winn shot Brandon Murphy, took his car, debit card, Nintendo games and other property and then doused the body and the apartment with lighter fluid.

Circuit Judge Henry Davis heard the two trials at the same time but each jury heard only the closing arguments for one defendant because each blamed the other for the crimes.

Neither showed any reaction as their verdicts were read separately in court Friday. Wallen's jury reached its verdict Thursday night, but it was sealed until Friday evening -- after Winn's jury reached its verdict.

A sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 11. The penalty for first-degree murder is either death or life in prison.

Prosecutors said the two had watched Natural Born Killers the night before the murder and that the crime resembled one in the movie where a couple kills a man and lights his remains on fire and then escapes together.

Jerry Williams, a witness who was at the apartment complex that day, said he saw the couple get into a beige car and pause as the man leaned over to kiss a red-headed woman just before the apartment burst into flames.

Wallen and Winn, who were dating at the time of the murder, were found two days later in Biloxi, Miss., driving Murphy's 1994 beige Nissan Maxima.

Murphy, who had lived for five years at Fieldcrest Apartments, allowed Wallen and Winn to temporarily move into his apartment after his roommate had to move away, Murphy's mother, Trena Nesler, said.

"He had no idea who they were," Nesler said. …

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