News

Actions

A daily recap of the Henry Segura trial

Posted: 4:00 PM, Aug 16, 2017
Updated: 2017-08-16 12:03:58-04
Henry Segura trial

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Nearly seven years after a Tallahassee mother and her three children were brutally killed, the trial of their accused murderer got underway July 31.

Brandi Peters, her 6-year-old twin daughters Tamiyah and Taniyah Peters, and her 3-year-old son JaVanate Segura were found dead at their Saddle Creek Run home on November 20, 2010.

Henry Segura, JaVante's father and Brandi's boyfriend, was arrested in September 2011 in Minnesota, charged with first-degree murder for all four deaths.

WTXL will recap each day's proceedings here:

DAY 1 - July 31, 2017

Henry Segura, dressed in a suit instead of a Leon County inmate uniform, sat with his legal team, including attorneys Nathan Prince and Greg Cummings. On the other side of the courtoom were assistant state attorneys Jon Fuchs, Eddie Evans and Sarah Dugan.

Jury selection started with a group of around 50 jurors. Judge James Hankinson said the process to narrow the field would be based on how familiar jurors are with the case and whether they have any "hardships" that would keep them from serving the duration of the trial -- which is expected to last three weeks.

In other news, James Carlos Santos, the former gang member who admitted in court the week before that he ordered all four murders. Santos sought legal counsel, and his attorney said Santos is "unsure" about testifying and is considering invoking his Fifth Amendment rights to protect against self-incrimination.

Judge Hankinson ordered a mental health evaluation to determine if Santos is competent to testify truthfully under oath.

Jury selection continued until 7:30 p.m., with prosecutors and the defense explaining the nature of the case and possible sentencing, which includes the death penalty.

DAY 2 - August 1, 2017

The first group of jurors were brought back to finish questioning, which included views on a number of topics -- gun rights, drug use, infidelity, law enforcement and the death penalty, to name a few.

The juror pool for the first group was narrowed down to seven, who were asked to return to court Wednesday.

The second pool of jurors was brought in, but questioning needed to carried over into Wednesday as well.

DAY 3 - August 2, 2017

A third day of jury selection was needed to pick the 12 jurors and 2 alternates that will serve. Six men and six women were chosen for the jury -- as well as two women as alternate jurors. All 14 selected are white, varying in age and occupation. Their names will not be published, and their faces will not be shown for the duration of trial.

Two material witnesses were arrested and detained at the Leon County jail. Artron Timmons and his mother Ciesly Timmon were charged with "contempt of court by not answering summons."

The state and defense listed more than 100 names as potential witnesses who could testify. The list includes more than 30 law enforcement employees from the Tallahassee Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the FBI and other agencies. Potential witnesses also include family members of Henry Segura and Brandi Peters -- as well as drug runner Angel Avila-Quinones and former gang member James Carlos Santos.

DAY 4 - August 3, 2017

Prosecutors and the defense presented their opening statements after three days of jury selection.

Judge Hankinson asked both sides not to mention James Carlos Santos in the opening statements. His attorney said Santos was still "on the fence" about testifying and was inclined not to.

The prosecution started by detailing the investigation into Segura's alleged involvement in the murders, claiming that he had the means, motive and opportunity to commit the crime. Cell phone records pinpointed a number Segura was believed to be using at a location near the Peters' residence when the murders happened. The state mentioned Segura was behind on child support payments, which could have been a factor in the motive.

The defense countered, claiming that police didn't look into other potential suspects -- and that there is no tangible evidence tying Segura to the murders. Lead attorney Nathan Prince said no blood was found on Segura when he was examined by police following the murders. He also mentioned that the DNA of Angel Avila-Quinones was found at the crime scene, and that bloody clothes, gloves, and bleach were discovered days later at nearby Jack McLean Park.

Testimony began with several TPD officers being questioned. Police had to break into Peters' home, because it was locked. When they got inside, they found Peters' body bleeding and laying by the front door. The area around her was covered in blood splatter.

Investigators found the children's bodies in a bathtub full of water that had been diluted with blood, giving it a reddish-brown tint. Officer Sean Wyman said he could only see two children at first, but he was asked to go back, where he saw a third child in the tub as well.

Neighbors Artron and Ciesly Timmons testified after being arrested earlier in the week for refusing to appear in court. Artron was just 14 years old when he was asked to check on Brandi Peters, who was a family friend. He said he saw blood on the door, which was locked, and ran home to tell his mother.

As part of police testimony, a 13-minute video was shown to the jury, revealing the crime scene as it was when officers arrived -- with all four bodies still at the home. Segura did not look at the video once.

A forensic specialist was questioned for about two hours, going over several pieces of evidence -- at times unsealing packets and boxes to show them to the jury. Her testimony was carried over to Friday morning.

DAY 5 - August 4, 2017

Forensic expert testimony started the day, with specialists explaining the process of gathering evidence from the crime scene and from Brandi Peters' body as part of her autopsy. DNA swabs and nail clippings were collected -- as well as four bullet projectiles from her head, ear, chest and abdomen.

Her clothes worn on that day were unsealed from bags and shown to the jury. Her blood-stained shirt, jeans, underwear and socks were handled by the defense attorneys, wearing gloves and carrying the items across the jury box to show each one.

Medical examiner Lisa Flannagan later testified that Peters may have been shot 7 or 8 times, including some at "close range," but that the gunshot wounds didn't immediately kill her.

The official cause of Brandi Peters' death was "blunt traumatic injuries to the head and face, with multiple gunshot wounds." Flannagan said there's evidence showing Peters fought off an attack and was beaten repeatedly with a heavy object that led to a skull fracture and brain hemorrhage.

Her graphic autopsy photos were shown, as well as those of her three children. Tamiyah Peters died from a gunshot wound in the back of her head. Taniyah Peters and JaVante Segura died by drowning, Flannagan said. Henry Segura did not look at any of the autopsy photos, keeping his head down as they were shown.

Other witnesses said there was evidence of a struggle inside Peters' house: the blood splatter all over the carpet, tiles and door by the foyer, a broken acrylic nail, and a fake plant that had fallen over, among other items.

Investigators also searched and collected evidence from Henry Segura's green Chevy pickup truck and white Monte Carlo. Among the items processed were several pairs of gloves, child support paperwork and a bank receipt showing a $1,450 withdrawal on November 18, 2010 -- two days before the bodies were found.

Judge Hankinson said the state will rest its case Wednesday, and the defense will start its case Thursday. Hankinson also scheduled an evidentiary hearing Wednesday to settle questions regarding the potential testimony of James Carlos Santos.

DAY 6 - August 7, 2017

The attorney for James Santos filed a letter of intent to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights when he is called to testify at trial. He is expected to appear in court Wednesday as part of an evidentiary hearing.

A TPD forensic specialist testified that she collected evidence from Jack McLean Park - a mile away from the crime scene - a week after the murders. Two blood-stained shirts were found in a trash can, and investigators also found clothing tags and gloves. None of the evidence could be confirmed by the specialist as related to the murders.

Now-retired FDLE crime lab analyst Jo Ellen Brown explained what DNA evidence was found, collected and processed from the crime scene. An unknown female's DNA was found underneath three of Brandi Peters' fingernails, and an unknown male's DNA was found on several items, including a bolt lock, door handle, phone cradle, purse and shovel.

However, none of the DNA pointed to Henry Segura. His DNA was excluded, Brown testified, from several pieces of evidence that were analyzed.

Not included as part of Brown's testimony was the controversial DNA database hit from the crime scene that matched drug runner Angel Avila-Quinones' DNA.

The defense wanted the CODIS hit allowed to show that TPD neglected other potential suspects and that FDLE prevented Brown from reporting the hit to the state attorney's office. Prosecutors, however, warned that CODIS hits aren't admissible in court. Judge Hankinson sided with the state, and the evidence was not allowed.

TPD's lead investigator in the case, Mark Lewis, was brought back to the witness stand -- as the jury watched Segura's initial interview with police. The lengthy videotaped interview was done on the same day that police found the bodies at the crime scene.

Segura showed no emotion when he was told that his 3-year-old son JaVante was dead. The prosecution pointed to that lack of reaction as suspicious in their opening statement.

In the interview, Segura admitted to being unfaithful to his wife, having an affair with Peters for several years. Calling her "spunky," "down-to-earth," and "sweet," Segura said Peters was a good mother -- but that he couldn't pay her child support, because of his financial woes. Records show he owed her more than $20,000.

Investigators hadn't considered Segura as a suspect when they interviewed him. Lewis told him TPD would do everything they could to find out who killed Segura's son.

Segura agreed to be interviewed, took off his shirt when asked by police, had pictures taken of his body, explained minor scratches on his arms, and agreed to a DNA swab.

DAY 7 - August 8, 2017

Several more witnesses were questioned by the state in an effort to explain a possible motive for Segura to kill Brandi Peters and her children. A close friend of Segura testified the two of them were looking for higher-paying work in Afghanistan, but Segura couldn't get a passport, because he owed too much child support.

A woman who admitted she was seeing Segura occasionally testified that Segura came to her in a rage a few days before the murders, asking for a gun with no explanation. She said she didn't give him the gun -- and that she'd never seen him so angry before. She also testified Segura was acting strange in the days following the murders.

A former cellmate of Segura, Kelsey Kinard, said Segura confessed to the murders while they were in prison together in Oklahoma in 2011. Kinard said Segura openly shared details about his case, including how the four were killed and writing rap songs about what he did.

Monica Peters, the sister of Brandi Peters, testified that she tried calling Brandi the night of the murders, but it went to voicemail. Monica said that was "unusual," because Brandi always had her phone by her.

Segura's follow-up interview with TPD on November 30, 2010 was played. Over the course of the lengthy interview, Segura said 23 times that he didn't leave his house on the day of the murders, though TPD had found cell phone records showing his phone at other places that day.

Segura also denied having a second phone, as investigators pushed him about being truthful.

A jailhouse call Segura made to his wife Malica while he was incarcerated in Minnesota was played. Malica cried, wondering what would happen to her as her husband was locked up.

DAY 8 - August 9, 2017

The state wrapped up its case, bringing in a cell phone expert from TPD to go over phone records from Henry Segura and Brandi Peters. Sergeant Christopher Corbitt testified that Segura used two phones, but only told police about one of them. The undisclosed phone was pinpointed being at Peters' home on Wednesday, November 17 -- as Segura had told police.

Corbitt also provided records that showed Segura dialed *67 to block his caller ID from showing up on Peters' phone whenever he called her from the undisclosed phone.

Segura also deleted certain text messages from his phone with Peters, his wife Malica and another person -- in specific reference to getting rid of a car.

The expert also testified that Peters' phone and Segura's phone were inactive at the same time on the night of the murders.

After the state rested its case, a hearing about possible evidence was held to determine what could be allowed as the defense prepared to start its case the next day.

Former gang member James Santos was in court for just a few minutes with his attorney to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights to protect himself from self-incrimination if called to testify, including his admission two weeks prior to ordering the murders.

Judge James Hankinson ruled against allowing Santos' testimony and a series of emails between Santos and Peters. Hankinson said Santos' testimony is not credible and based on hearsay, admitting the state should've been allowed to cross-examine Santos when he testified two weeks ago.

An expert on gang activity testified that the nature of the crime led him to believe it was the work of the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas, which Santos allegedly worked with. Dr. Jesse De La Cruz said the facts that children were killed, multiple footprints were found, and the "viciousness" of the crime are all indicators of a cartel killing, and the spade found at the crime scene with no blood on it is a "calling card" of Los Zetas that is left to indicate the cartel is responsible for the crime.

DAY 9 - August 10, 2017

The defense opened its case by presenting other potential suspects. An inmate named Gregory Washington testified that his two friends DeMario Paramore and Hayward Griffin are responsible for the murders. Washington worked with TPD as a confidential information and recorded what he called a confession from Paramore via a wiretapped conversation.

Griffin denied any involvement in the murders when he took the stand, and prosecutors labeled Washington as "problematic" and a "snitch" who didn't capture an actual confession.

The defense questioned a TPD sergeant who interviewed Paramore but admitted he didn't collect DNA or follow up on alibis Paramore gave police.

Neighbors were questioned regarding the time of the murders, testing the state's theory that Peters and her children were killed some time after 6:30 p.m.

An expert was brought in to discuss how DNA found on a phone cradle at Peters' house matched the genetic profile of drug runner Angel Avila-Quinones. The state argued that Avila-Quinones hadn't returned to the United States after being deported in 2009.

The defense introduced a letter mailed to Peters from a federal detention facility two days before she was killed. The letter was authored by James Carlos Santos, and a threatening message was written on the envelope, in part reading, "Death before dishonor."

DAY 10 - August 11, 2017

The defense continued its case with another look at the crime scene, bringing in reconstructionist Michael Knox who went over several photos. After reviewing blood stains left at the scene, he determined Brandi Peters who shot in her bedroom and made her way down the hallway and past the front door. Knox said Peters was then hit with a heavy object and brought back inside the house, where the "bulk" of the violence occurred.

The object used to hit Peters, Knox said, wasn't the spade found in the foyer area. The spade, he testified, didn't have "apparent blood" on it -- and if it were used in the murders, it would have some trace of blood on it.

In a surprising move, defendant Henry Segura testified as the defense's final witness for the day. He was at the witness stand for an hour, answering questions from both the defense and prosecution.

Segura explained his whereabouts on the day of the murders, claiming he went to Peters' house around 2 p.m., but he turned around when he realized she wasn't there. He said he returned later in the evening when she was home, had sex with her, and played with the kids for a bit before heading home around 8 p.m.

He added that he lied to police about not having a second phone and his relationship with Peters in order to keep his wife Malica Segura from finding out he was cheating on her.

In explaining the scratches on his arms, Segura said he was involved in a shootout in Mississippi a few months earlier, supporting his cousin who asked him for support.

Segura admitted the Monte Carlo he had was stolen, so he didn't want police snooping around it as they investigated.

As the prosecution hammered him with questions, Segura repeatedly denied any involvement in the murders -- saying there's no way Peters would have made him angry enough to kill her and the children. Segura said he helped raised Peters' twin daughters, who he said called him "daddy." He admitted he wasn't a significant part of his son JaVante's life, and he did request a paternity test to confirm he was JaVante's father.

The judge scheduled the remainder of the trial as follows:

- Monday: Defense to rest case, followed by the state's rebuttal

- Tuesday: Jury instruction, closing arguments, followed by the start of jury deliberations (with sequestration, if needed)

- Wednesday: Additional (and final) day of jury deliberations, if needed

- Thursdsay: Start of penalty phase, if needed

- Friday: Final day of penalty phase, if needed

DAY 11 - August 14, 2017

The defense rested its case after calling a final witness to the stand. Brandi Peters' next door neighbor said her dog Zeus wouldn't stop barking in the "wee hours" of November 20, pacing back and forth from the fence that borders Peters' house.

Segura's attorneys have tried to convince the jury that the time of the murders is different from the state's theory.

The state followed with its rebuttal, bringing back several witnesses to ask them about specifics in the defense's case.

Two DNA experts testified that there were no DNA matches to Angel Avila-Quinones and DeMario Paramore -- two individuals the defense presented as alternative suspects.

TPD Investigator Mark Lewis testified he went back to Jack McLean Park over the weekend to look at what had appeared to be a stain on a bathroom sink when police initially investigated. Lewis said the stain was actually a porcelain crack -- not blood, as the defense had suggested.

Prosecutors also questioned Monica Peters, Brandi's sister, who said she talked to Brandi in the "late afternoon" of November 19 -- though she previously testified to talking to Brandi on the phone later in the evening.

The jury was instructed to prepare overnight bags for the following day, as deliberations were expected to start.

DAY 12 - August 15, 2017

After Judge James Hankinson provided the jury with instructions, closing arguments began, starting with the state.

Over the course of an hour, prosecutor Jon Fuchs urged the jury to consider Henry Segura had the means, motive and opportunity to kill Brandi Peters, her twin 6-year-old daughters Tamiyah and Taniyah Peters, and his 3-year-old son JaVante Segura.

Though Fuchs admitted none of Segura's DNA was found at the crime scene, Segura testified he was at Peters' house on November 19.

The state argued the cell phone data, Segura's deception in interviews with police, his alleged jailhouse confessions, and his issues with paying child support all played a role in his guilt.

Fuchs said the evidence -- including graphic crime scene and autopsy photos that were shown to the jury several times -- and testimonies presented over the course of the trial point to Segura as the one responsible for the murders.

The defense followed with a passionate opening. Lead attorney Nathan Prince claimed police and the prosecution weren't thorough in their investigation. Prince said the murders were "evil in action" -- and "justice is hanging in the balance."

Segura's attorneys said police didn't pursue leads with other possible suspects -- and the state has the burden of proof to go over any potential piece of evidence.

Prince reminded the jury that Segura's DNA wasn't found at the crime scene -- and that witnesses have given a different time of the murders than what the state presented.

The defense spent 80 minutes in delivering its closing argument, which brought Segura to near tears. His legal team patted and rubbed his back as he looked down.

The state followed with an hour-long rebuttal before the jury started deliberating at 1:17 PM.

Hankinson dismissed two male jurors after they were designated as alternates, but he asked them to provide contact information in case a guilty verdict was reached. The final jury has eight women and four men.

The jury deliberated for nine hours until Hankinson announced the end of the day -- just after 10 p.m. No verdict was reached, but the jurors did ask a few questions to the court.

DAY 13 - August 16, 2017

The second day of jury deliberations started with a request to review testimony from Segura's former cellmate Kelsey Kinard and TPD Sergeant Vincent Boccio. Court reporters recited the transcripts of both testimonies to the jury.

Kinard's testimony recalled the alleged confession Segura made while the two were cellmates in Oklahoma City. Kinard had testified that Segura mentioned killing four people, shooting two of them and drowning the other two. The testimony also referred to Segura asking a girlfriend about a gun, but that she wouldn't give it to him.

Kinard had also claimed Segura had written rap songs about what he did -- and Kinard mailed the sheets of rap music to Segura's wife later.

Boccio's testimony looked into an alleged confession from DeMario Paramore, who was recorded in a wiretapped talk with confidential informant Gregory Washington, an inmate who claimed Paramore and Hayward Griffin were behind the murders.

Boccio had interviewed Paramore, who provided alibis and admitted he used multiple phones. However, the defense argued that police never followed up on the alibis and didn't check all of Paramore's phone records.

The jurors went back to deliberate for several more hours, but returned in the early afternoon to report they were deadlocked. Judge James Hankinson provided additional instructions in an attempt to resolve the impasse, asking each juror to explain weaknesses in his or own position, one by one.

If the jury were to determine it was still deadlocked, then the judge would declare a mistrial.