1. #1
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    Default Ft Nyers Fla--Murder/Arson Case Goes to trial

    Murder, arson case under way in Lee

    Suspects arrested after driving to Michigan

    By MIKE HOYEM, mhoyem@news-press.com
    Published by news-press.com on August 12, 2003


    It must have been a long, smelly trip: five people with about 20 cats and dogs driving from Fort Myers to Flint, Mich.

    But it’s a trip prosecutors say Chauncey Thomas was willing to make to try to get away with murder.

    Unfortunately for Thomas, the animals got him arrested after he got there.

    Thomas — who, according to court records is either 35, 36 or 38 years old — went on trial Monday in Lee Circuit Court on charges of second-degree murder, arson and grand theft auto.

    He’s accused of killing William Amidon, 50, whose body was found burned beyond recognition in an east Fort Myers house on Sept. 14, 2001.

    Fort Myers police have said they believe Amidon was at the home of co-defendant Shantae Dennis when an argument erupted that may have involved drugs.

    He was stabbed to death before his body — and a bedroom — were set on fire.

    During his opening statement, defense attorney J.L. “Ray” LeGrande didn’t deny Thomas was at the house. But he insisted Thomas did not kill Amidon.

    Among the first witnesses was Sgt. Jeff Mabry of the Flint Police Department, who said he was on patrol when he was told to go to a home where animal control officers were trying to remove some dogs.

    Tempers were flaring, Mabry said, so he was asked to assist.

    Mabry said police checked the license plate of a 2000 Chevrolet Impala that Thomas and Dennis were loading their belongings into.

    The car, he said, was Amidon’s and was listed as stolen. So Thomas and Dennis, 25, were arrested.

    According to Assistant State Attorney Brian Edwards, Thomas and Dennis drove to Flint — with three other people and the pack of animals — to stay with Dennis’ relatives.

    When police searched the car, they found a steak knife in it as well as lighter fluid.

    David Lepper, an investigator with the state fire marshal’s office, began to tell jurors he suspected an accelerant such as gas or lighter fluid helped start the fire.

    But LeGrande objected to what he called speculation.

    “Sir, in your investigation, did you find evidence of accelerant?” LeGrande asked on cross-examination.

    “No sir,” Lepper said.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    Post Conviction

    Man convicted in murder-arson


    By MIKE HOYEM, mhoyem@news-press.com
    Published by news-press.com on August 14, 2003


    Chauncey Thomas had some words for his prosecutors Wednesday after being convicted of second-degree murder, arson and grand theft auto.

    “You guys got what you wanted,” he said as he was led out of court.

    Thomas, 38, may have been disappointed, but the verdict — announced after jurors deliberated for 45 minutes — was not surprising.

    After William Amidon was stabbed to death on Sept. 14, 2001, while binging on booze and crack cocaine, his body was burned beyond recognition at the home of Thomas’ girlfriend, Shantae Dennis, 25.

    Thomas and Dennis — who also faces murder, arson and grand theft charges — then fled Fort Myers in the car Amidon had been driving.

    Five witnesses said Thomas admitted killing Amidon, including one who said Thomas told of a plan to blame the killing on Dennis because it was “the only way he’d get away with it.”

    There was testimony that when police arrived at a house in Flint, Mich., where the pair and three of Dennis’ family members were hiding, the five “scattered like roaches” out of fear of being arrested.

    And Assistant State Attorney Brian Edwards reminded jurors that Thomas put up with a lot to get out of Fort Myers.

    Dennis insisted on taking more than 20 dogs and cats because she “didn’t want anything to happen to them,” according to her mother.

    Driving to Michigan in a car with four other adults and 20-plus dogs and cats “is not something a reasonable person would do,” Edwards said, unless the person had a reason to go to such lengths.

    Lee Circuit Judge William J. Nelson scheduled sentencing for Sept. 16.

    Thomas’ court-appointed attorney, J.L. “Ray” LeGrande of Fort Myers, tried to convince the jury the witnesses against Thomas — who consisted mainly of Dennis’ family members — blamed the murder on Thomas to protect Dennis.

    “Do the relatives want to save Shantae?” LeGrande asked. “You need to wrestle with that question.”

    After the verdict, LeGrande had little to say.

    “The jury made the decision,” LeGrande said. “It was a factual matter. They made the determination.”

    Edwards said he and Assistant State Attorney Maria Gonzalez, who served as co-counsel on the case, likely will ask Nelson to impose the maximum sentence of life in prison.

    “I think the jury did the right thing,” Edwards said. “They listened to the facts. I think it was quite obvious.”

    Testimony showed Amidon, 50, of North Fort Myers went looking for drugs in east Fort Myers on Friday, Sept. 13, and met up with Dennis and her mother, Bonita Collier, 49.

    The three stayed up all night smoking crack and drinking, Collier testified.

    She said her daughter got upset when Amidon made sexual advances toward both of them, so Dennis grabbed a knife and cut Amidon.

    But Collier said it was Thomas who actually killed Amidon.

    After his arrest, Thomas blamed Dennis, calling her a “beast” who went crazy, stabbing Amidon and setting his body on fire in her own bedroom.

    Edwards told jurors there were inconsistencies in the story Thomas gave police and the one he told from the witness stand.

    At the end of his closing argument, Edwards showed jurors a photo of Amidon with a wide grin on his face.

    “This was Bill,” he said.

    He then held up a photo of Amidon’s charred corpse.

    “This was Bill after Chauncey and Shantae got to him,” Edwards said. “I ask you to remember that when you begin your deliberations
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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