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TMCNet:  Jurors in Amos Southall murder trial see videos of him in stores near crime scene

[November 29, 2012]

Jurors in Amos Southall murder trial see videos of him in stores near crime scene

WOODBINE, Nov 29, 2012 (The Florida Times-Union - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The fingerprint of the suspect in the beating and drowning death of a Yulee woman was found on a takeout pizza box in the Kingsland motel room where she was found dead in a bathtub, the lead investigator testified Wednesday at the man's murder trial.

Jurors also viewed videos from stores near the former Ramada Inn that showed suspect Amos Southall in the early morning hours before the body of Michelle Hainley, 21, was found on Feb. 26, 2008. That was two days after she left her home in Yulee.

Southall, 31, who was arrested May 2, 2008, in Florida City, is charged with murder, felony murder, rape, aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance.

Investigator Shawn Brown was on the witness stand for hours linking cellphone records with store surveillance videos. All the videos were recorded between midnight and dawn on the day Hainley's body was found. They all came from businesses in a small area around the Interstate 95-Georgia 40 interchange where the motel sits in the northwest corner.

Southall was seen on videos taken from a Flash Foods store on the eastern side of the interchange, another Flash Foods just in front of the motel and a Petro a short distance west of the motel.

In questioning Brown, District Attorney Jackie Johnson painstakingly laid out the movements of Southall and Kristopher Robinson, 29, of St. Marys, who is charged with providing drugs to Southall and Hainley. He was found to be driving Hainley's 2008 Dodge after her death and was seen driving it from a Flash Foods store in Nassau County Feb. 26.

Between midnight and 4:35 a.m. that day, dozens of calls were made from room 146, where Hainley's body was found, to Robinson's cellphone, some less than five minutes apart. During a gap in the call log, Southall was captured on a surveillance camera at the Petro.

Earlier, he had gone into the Flash Foods in front of the hotel and asked the clerk to look up the phone number of Courtesy Cab. The video showed Southall with a white towel draped over his head like those missing from the motel room, Brown testified.

The phone records from the Petro show someone called Courtesy Cab at the time the store's surveillance camera showed Southall walking into the area with pay phones.

Defense lawyer Adam Levin questioned Brown about Robinson's whereabouts in the same hours that investigators believe Southall was walking to nearby stores and making calls from room 146.

Brown used other records to show that calls from the motel room to Robinson's cellphone went through towers in Nassau County.

During an interview Feb. 27, Southall said he didn't have a cellphone at the time, Brown testified.

Southall was free to go that day and remained free until investigators developed more evidence, he said.

Four women had vouched for Robinson's whereabouts between 1 and 4:30 a.m. that night. Was Brown aware that Robinson's mother had been giving small amounts of cash to one of those witnesses, Levin asked.

Brown said he was not.

Johnson has said the prosecution will likely complete its case Thursday.

Presiding Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison advised the jury they may be asked to work some long days to decrease the likelihood of their working over the weekend.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405 ___ (c)2012 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at www.jacksonville.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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