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New witness delays trial in Ybor fatal stabbing

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000

TAMPA -- An 11th-hour prosecution witness provoked a two-day delay Monday in the murder trial of Mike Fuqua, accused of fatally stabbing an Air Force airman during a spring break bar fight in Ybor City.

Public Defender Julianne Holt urged Circuit Judge Robert Simms to disqualify Carrie Bell of Lutz as a witness because Holt's staff has so little time to check Bell's story and background. Simms refused, but reset the trial for Wednesday to provide more time. Holt is trying the case.

Complicating matters is a speedy-trial rule that entitles Fuqua, 24, also of Lutz, to a trial no later than next Monday.

"I don't like being in this box, I assure you," Simms said. "The defendant has to choose between the right to a speedy trial and a right to confront his witnesses."

Bell, who turns 19 today, has been in jail since Oct. 3. She is accused of violating her probation from a 1998 burglary by trafficking in drugs. Bell gave prosecutors a statement Friday that Fuqua visited her after the March 14 stabbing, admitting he had done it and seeking money to flee.

Two of Fuqua's former Hillsborough County Jail cellmates also have spoken up to say he had admitted the stabbing.

And Jarrett Brock, known with Fuqua as a "Lutz Boy," told investigators that Fuqua borrowed the knife from him. Brock said Fuqua later told him he had used it to stab Airman Jeremiah Kleiss and threw it in a gutter a few blocks away.

An employee at the Blues Ship Cafe, where the fight started, identified another man as the stabber.

Fuqua and another Lutz Boy were videotaped running from the fight as Kleiss sought help. They were identified after local television stations broadcast the tape.

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