PENSACOLA, Florida (AP/CNN) -- The trial of two adolescent brothers
accused of bludgeoning their father to death with an aluminum
baseball bat will be a mirror image of last week's trial of a family
Three people have been charged in the slaying of Terry King: sons
Alex and Derek King, now 13 and 14, and family friend Ricky Chavis.
The boys now say Chavis did it; Chavis says the brothers killed their
Chavis was tried separately and the jury issued a verdict on his
first-degree murder charges Friday. The verdict was sealed pending
conclusion of the boys' trial, set to begin Tuesday.
The trials involve all sorts of bizarre scenarios. Alex and Derek
were the star witnesses against Chavis last week, but if they testify
this week, it will be as defendants. Chavis could help the
prosecution this week.
Such twists are certain to add drama to a murder trial that has drawn
protests from opponents of prosecuting and sentencing children as
Chavis' lawyer, Michael Rollo, acknowledged the delicate nature of
the case in his closing arguments Friday.
"We don't like to say that children with cherubim faces can be cold,
calculating, homicidal psychopaths," Rollo said.
But that didn't stop him from arguing that the boys, then 12 and 13,
attacked their 40-year-old father while he slept Nov. 26 and set his
house on fire.
All three defendants face life sentences without parole if convicted
of first-degree murder. Chavis, one or both of the King brothers, or
all three could be found guilty.
Chavis, a convicted child molester, was tried before a 12-member jury
because he was eligible for capital punishment although the state did
not seek the death penalty. The King brothers will be tried as adults
before a six-member jury because they are too young for death
The most damaging evidence against the King brothers is the recorded
confessions they gave to Escambia County sheriff's deputies a day
after their father was killed.
"I made sure he was asleep," Derek told investigators. "I got the bat
and I hit him over the head."
The victim's body was found in a recliner just where the boys said it
had been inside the burning house in Cantonment, a blue-collar suburb
north of Pensacola.
Alex told the deputies it was his idea to kill his father because the
boys were afraid of being punished for running away from home. Derek
said their father earlier had pushed Alex around and he started
Both boys said in their statements that Chavis had nothing to do with
Alex described the murder in chilling detail. He told deputies he saw
his father's brain through a hole in his head and heard "a sound like
the person has a slightly stopped up nose" as he gasped his final
Rollo told jurors it was something the boys never could have made up.
"It's like a photograph of a crime scene," he said.
The brothers retracted their confessions more than four months later
when they testified before a grand jury. Both stuck with that version
when they testified against Chavis, saying he killed their father
while they hid in the trunk of Chavis' car.
The boys said their confessions were lies. Alex said Chavis had told
them they could take the blame and then get off by claiming
The brothers hoped to live with Chavis, who had taken them in when
they ran away from home 10 days before the murder. Alex testified he
had loved Chavis and had sex with him.
The police confessions, however, are not the only evidence against the boys.
They also confessed to other witnesses, including their mother.
Derek's former guardians also testified he told them two days before
the murder that the boys wanted to kill their father and already had
Laboratory tests showed the boys had paint thinner on their shoes, a
substance consistent with an accelerant used to start the fire, which
melted the murder weapon.
Telephone records support Chavis' claim that the boys called him
after the killing and asked him to pick them up. They show a call was
made from a convenience store's pay phone to Chavis' home at the same
time a neighbor made a 911 call to report the fire.