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Donald Hartung Penalty Phase for Murders of His Mother and Half Brothers


Jurors in Escambia County, Florida will decide the fate of convicted murderer Donald Hartung, 63. He was found guilty on January 29 of killing his mother Voncile Smith, 77, and his half brothers John William Smith, 49, and Richard Thomas Smith, 47.

Prosecutors said he attacked them at Voncile Smith’s home on July 28, 2015 because the mother cut him out of the inheritance. In her will, she said it wasn’t out of “lack of love” but because he could fend for himself financially, according to the prosecution. The victims’ bodies were discovered after Richard Smith, a Department of Homeland Security employee, didn’t show up to work.

The defense said there’s no evidence that Hartung hated his family, or knew he was cut out of the will. Prosecutors brought up jailhouse informant Marlin Devon Purifoy, who testified that the defendant confessed the murders to him in great detail. Hartung’s lawyer Sharon K. Wilson subjected him to an aggressive cross-examination and suggested that the witness–serving a 30-year sentence for attempting to kill a girlfriend by using a hammer–was just trying to get a lighter punishment, and had learned about details of the case from Hartung’s discovery papers.

Jurors sided with the prosecution. Now the defendant faces the death penalty.

[Screengrab via Law&Crime Network]

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