Va. man pleads guilty to 2004 fatal shooting of officer


By Seanna  Adcox
Associated Press Writer 
   
St. Matthews, S.C. - A Virginia man knew he was shooting an off-duty South Carolina police officer when he fired a rifle at the man nine times and then set his body on fire, prosecutors arguing for the death penalty said Monday.


Amy Myers, widow of S.C. officer James Myers, prepares to testify in the sentencing phase of Mikal Deen Mahdi's death penalty trial Monday. (AP Photo)



Mikal Deen Mahdi, 23, pleaded guilty to murder and other charges last week before his trial was to start. Prosecutors seeking the death penalty are trying to prove Mahdi knew he was killing a police officer when he shot Orangeburg County Public Safety Capt. James Myers, 56, in a shed on Myers' farm in central South Carolina in July 2004.

Mahdi's attorneys said they plan to show Mahdi couldn't have known Myers was a police officer.

Circuit Judge Clifton Newman, who will sentence Mahdi, heard testimony Monday from a Florida police officer who arrested Mahdi and Myers' widow, who discovered her husband lying face down in a pool of blood in a shed where the pair were married in April 2003.

"I knew the man I loved was gone and all the dreams we had would never be fulfilled," said Amy Myers, who was with the State Law Enforcement Division before leaving in September to prepare for the trial.

After Mahdi shot Myers, prosecutors say he then fled in the officer's unmarked police truck, which was loaded with guns, ammunition and body armor.

That set off a manhunt that spanned much of the Southeast and ended three days later with Mahdi's capture in Satellite Beach, Fla.

A week before Myers' death, authorities said, Mahdi killed a store clerk in Winston-Salem, N.C. He then headed south and stole a sport-utility vehicle and tried to buy fuel with a stolen credit card, prosecutors said. A clerk became suspicious and called police, and Mahdi fled, ending up at Myers' farm, officials said.

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