FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Opening statements got underway Monday in the trial of one of two men charged in the brutal murders of three people more than a decade ago.
This will be the third trial of Seth Penalver, 39, who along with Pablo Ibar, were charged in the June 1994 murders of Casimir “Butch Casey” Sucharski, Sharon Anderson and Marie Rogers, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. At the time of his murder, Sucharski owned the popular Casey’s Nickelodeon bar in Pembroke Park.
Monday morning, the trial proceedings were delayed after it was learned a juror may have been discussing the case with other jury members. But opening statements later got underway.
Investigators said Penalver and another man stormed Sucharski’s residence in Miramar, ransacked the house, then executed Sucharski, Anderson, Marie Rogers. Anderson’s family is attending Penalver’s trial. They said 18 years hasn’t healed their pain.
“It’s abeen a long hard road. The minute you feel like we got him, he’s away and can’t do any harm, here we are again,” said Barbara Jones, the mother of Sharon Anderson.
Prosecutors are relying on home video to prove their case. Sucharski had a camera rolling in his home at the time which captured the gruesome crime.
Investigators said Penalver is one of two men seen in the video. They said he was wearing sunglasses and a hat at the time, but that evidence points to Penalver as one of the triggermen.
“Armed with this video, police no longer had to guess what happened, they could see it,” prosecutor Chuck Morton told the jury in his opening statement.
Morton implored the jury to follow the evidence.
But Penalver’s attorney said there is no positive proof that he is a killer.
“You will not hear one single person walk into this court and say that person is the person,” defense attorney Hilliard Moldoff told the jury in his opening statement.
Anderson’s niece Alexis Vance was only three-days-old when her aunt was murdered and she still bears the emotional scars.
“Growing up, I remember being five or six and asking my mom are the doors locked?” she said.
Deborah Bowie, Sharon’s sister says there can never be closure.
“There’s never closure when it comes to murder,” Bowie said.
Penalver and a co-defendant, Pablo Ibar, were charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Their first trial, one of the longest ever in Broward, lasted seven months and ended on Jan. 25, 1998, in a hung jury.
A judge then decided to try the men separately. Penalver went before a second jury the following year. This time, testimony lasted six months, and Penalver was found guilty of all charges.
Penalver won a reprieve in February 2006, when the Florida Supreme Court overturned his conviction, ruling that the videotape did not conclusively establish Penalver’s identity as one of the killers. The judges also found that prosecutors were unfairly allowed to imply that a defense witness changed her testimony because she was unduly influenced by defense attorneys.
The high court upheld Ibar’s conviction a month later, and he remains on death row.