A jury in Sanford, Florida began considering the fate of Chester Warlocks patch holder Robert “Willie” Eckert this afternoon. Eckert stands accused of three counts of second degree murder for the shooting deaths of Harold “Lil Dave” Liddle, Peter “Hormone” Schlette and Dave “Dresser” Jakiela and two counts of attempted murder resulting from the wounding of Brad Dyess and Ronnie “Whiteboy” Mitchell.
Four men faced the same set of charges after the shootings in the parking lot of a VFW Post in Winter Springs, Florida on September 30, 2012. Eckert is the third to go on trial.
David “Tin Man” Maloney was acquitted of all three murder counts and one of the attempted murder counts two weeks ago. A jury was unable to agree about whether Maloney tried to murder Mitchell or acted in self defense. A mistrial was declared after four days of argument and testimony in the trial of Victor Manuel “Pancho” Amaro on the same charges last week. Paul Wayne Smith’s trial was scheduled to begin May 5 but Rene Stutzman of the Orlando Sentinel continues to report that no trial is scheduled for Smith.
All four men have claimed self defense.
Eckert declined to take the stand to testify in his own defense. Police allege that he fired a total of three shots during the fatal encounter and that none of those bullets struck anyone.
Prosecutor Stewart Stone told jurors that Eckert should be found guilty of the murders because he participated in the gunfight. “You participate in these kinds of events, you’re going to be held responsible,” Stone said.
Prosecutors have argued that Amaro actually fired the shots that killed Liddle and Jakiela. According to multiple witnesses Smith fired the shots that started the battle and that killed Schlette.
In his closing argument, Stone also told jurors that Eckert and the other accused men “waited to confront them (the victims) with guns in their hands.”
But the essence of the four cases has been whether greeting the victims with drawn guns was prudent or reckless. Maloney had a bitter history with the motorcycle club to which all five of the victims belonged – the Florida Warlocks. He had been expelled from that club, had been found to have acted in self-defense when he shot a member of the Florida Warlocks in 2011 and he testified that he was afraid for his life when he armed himself and told the other defendants to arm themselves.
“I figured they were there to kill me…all of us…” Maloney said at his trial. “They’ve told us numerous times they wanted us dead. They told me I had to leave the state of Florida. Shutting us down meant they were going to kill us…. My office was about a mile from my house. So, whenever I would leave my house, I would never leave in the same direction. I would never come home the same way. I never went to work the same time. I varied my routes all the time.”
Maloney’s jury believed him.
As of 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time Eckert’s jury was still out.