tampabay.com

In trial, a portrait of murder

A witness provides a chilling image of the Subway killing of 2004.

By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published May 16, 2007


TAMPA - She couldn't move fast enough.

A hooded man hovered behind Subway employee Danielle Miller. He pointed a gun, yelling for her to open the cash register. Freaked out, 22-year-old Miller fumbled with the touch screen.

She worked at the Town 'N Country sandwich shop to fund her education at the International Academy of Design & Technology. Just 26 seconds earlier, she had served her final customer his sandwich.

Now she couldn't open the register.

"Girl, you're too slow, " the gunman said, according to a witness. "You gots to die."

He shot Miller three times. She fell to the floor.

Later that night, when a friend asked why he killed the woman, the gunman reiterated his reasoning: "She was taking too f------ long."

On Tuesday, 2 1/2 years after the bullets flew, prosecutors brought to trial the man they accuse of shooting the fashion design student and a fellow employee, who survived. Phillip Austin Jr., 20, faces life in prison on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and robbery. Testimony continues today.

His attorney, Grady Irvin, told jurors that authorities arrested the wrong guy. But it wasn't just blue suits and badges blaming Austin.

Dorothy Hayes, who survived a gunshot wound to her abdomen, couldn't identify Austin as the shooter. His two accomplices could.

Darrell Sebron Doby Jr., 21, said he drove Austin and Marquis Devon Alexander to the Subway at 8019-A W Hillsborough Ave. on Dec. 4, 2004.

They planned to meet someone at the shopping center to buy marijuana, Doby said.

Their dealer didn't show. Doby said his buddies decided they wanted "a quick lick" - street slang for robbery.

Austin passed a gun to Alexander and armed himself with another, Doby said.

They agreed to give Doby $10 in gas money from their loot.

Inside the store, according to Alexander, Austin jumped the counter and aimed his weapon at Miller.

Alexander, his face covered with a black and white bandana, pointed his at Hayes. Jurors watched surveillance video with a clear color picture that caught the hooded teenagers in action.

Alexander said his friend also shot Hayes.

"It felt like I got electrocuted, " Hayes testified. She opened the register. The teens made off with less than $100, dropping cash as they ran from the store.

Alexander, now 18, proved a reluctant witness Tuesday. He whispered answers, avoiding eye contact with prosecutor Douglas Covington. At one point, he mouth something apologetically to Austin.

"Did Mr. Austin shoot anybody?" Covington asked.

Austin looked down, hesitating.

"Yes, sir, " he mumbled.

Prosecutors said Alexander flipped first, confessing his role in the crime to detectives. He told them about the getaway driver.

Building a case against Austin, who worked at another Subway in North Tampa, proved tougher.

People who ran to the Subway employees' aid contaminated the crime scene, Covington said. One person jumped over the counter in the same spot the robber had. Fingerprints and shoe prints smeared.

Then Alexander and Doby entered into plea deals on reduced charges and agreed to testify against Austin.

Alexander was sentenced last year to 35 years in prison and 10 years of probation. Doby is serving five years and 11 months in prison, to be followed by three years of probation.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at 813 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.