Trial begins in killing of roommate
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
BROOKSVILLE -- Betty A. Malloy sat in Judge Richard Tombrink's courtroom Monday, a box of tissues by her side, wishful that God will sort out right from wrong on what would have been her son Kevin's 24th birthday.
"I've got the good Lord watching over me. I'll be all right," Malloy said as she awaited opening arguments in the first-degree murder trial of Jonathan R. Patton, 20. "I've got faith in God that he'll make this thing come out the way it's supposed to."
She looked across the room at Patton's mother, sitting two rows behind the defendant.
"If he gets life in prison, she can still go visit him," Malloy said, a tinge of jealousy in her voice. "The only thing I can go visit is a tombstone."
Prosecutor Don Scaglione worked to convince the four-man, two-woman jury that the outcome should be clear.
"I believe that when you receive the actual piece of steel and see it, see how it was used, you will have the ability as a jury to reach one conclusion: Mr. Patton wanted to kill Kevin Malloy," Scaglione said.
He recounted how Patton and Malloy fought over a teenage girlfriend. He told them that the men discussed how they would kill someone if they wanted to. He said Patton had dug a small grave behind the mobile home on Old California Street that the men and another roommate shared.
Then Scaglione described how Patton is accused of bashing Malloy's head once with the torque converter while Malloy slept early Jan. 17, 2002.
"By Jonathan's own words, that was not enough," Scaglione said.
So, Patton smashed Malloy's skull a second time, he said. And a third time.
He then called 911 and lied about what had happened, Scaglione said. He tried to make it seem like a joke, Scaglione said, that he didn't want to hurt anybody. But the evidence will show otherwise, he concluded.
Patton sat silently, stone-faced.
His lawyer, Chip Harp, all but conceded his client's guilt.
"What the evidence is going to show is, the defendant is guilty of a crime, but not the crime he is charged with," Harp told the jury, referring to the first-degree murder and kidnapping charges.
He urged the jury to listen to all the evidence and explanations before making its decision. Harp hinted at what was to come.
He painted a picture of a Patton afraid of the bully Malloy, who had punched a hole in the windshield of Patton's car and stolen Patton's safe. He demeaned some of the prosecution's witnesses as drunks and called the prosecution's case convoluted.
"There's so many inconsistencies here that each one of them is going to raise all sorts of questions," Harp told the panel.
His presentation troubled Scaglione, who asked that the jury be removed so he could talk to the judge about it. Scaglione suggested that Harp had conceded guilt before any facts were submitted into evidence and worried aloud that Patton might have an appeal based on incompetent counsel.
He asked Tombrink to have Patton state for the record that he had approved the defense. Patton did so.
After opening remarks, the prosecution presented four witnesses who began to set the scene of the crime. The trial, which is expected to last three days, resumes at 9 a.m. today.
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