As the dramatic conclusion of the Jodi Arias murder trial approaches with closing arguments scheduled for this Thursday and Friday, HLN is following another intriguing murder trial set to begin in May.
Caryn Kelley, 48, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of her boyfriend, 46-year-old Phillip Peatross, at her College Park, Florida home during the early morning hours of July 27, 2011.
According to prosecutors, Kelley has given several different explanations for the shooting, including claiming that she fired the gun in self-defense and alleging that Peatross shot himself.
Authorities responded to a report of a homicide at the Orlando area home on July 27, 2011 following a frantic 911 call placed by Kelley at 4:49 a.m..
Police found Peatross’ body in the bedroom, slumped on the floor between the bed and the night stand, authorities said in court documents.
Investigators added they observed “blood on his face, hair, and clothing,” as well as “blood spatter on the night stand” and a pool of blood on the bed.
Peatross died of a single gunshot wound to the right side of his face. Black powder burns around the entrance wound “were consistent with a close range gunshot,” according to authorities.
Police said the firearm used in the killing, a revolver, was located on the bedroom floor near the victim’s body.
According to a police report, Kelley had blood on both of her hands when officers arrived and appeared to be intoxicated.
Authorities alleged that Kelley provided varying accounts of what happened that fateful night, including offering numerous different explanations during the course of her call to 911.
On the 911 call, Kelley stated the shooting was “self-defense,” then told the dispatcher “it was an accident.” She then said Peatross “put the gun to his head,” according to court documents.
Responding officers said they heard Kelley make additional claims after they arrived. At one point, she allegedly stated that she and Peatross argued earlier that night and she warned him not to return to the house unannounced “because she had a firearm and she said she would use it,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Kelley also allegedly told detectives after she was taken into custody that she thought an intruder had broken into the house, she struggled with him in the dark and accidentally shot him not knowing that he was Peatross, the affidavit stated.
“Caryn had changed her story from this incident being a suicide to not being a suicide, to being an accidental shooting when she and Phillip wrestled for the gun, to being an intruder she shot because it was dark and she didn’t know it was Phillip,” authorities alleged in court documents.
When Kelley was being transported to jail following her arrest, police said “her story changed again when she told the media she did not shoot her boyfriend but he had shot himself,” court documents stated.
According to police reports, Kelley allegedly continued to make conflicting statements to investigators about the shooting after she was read her Miranda rights, even though they said they had stopped questioning her when she requested an attorney.
The trial was delayed indefinitely last year when the State appealed a judge’s ruling to throw out some of the statements Kelley made to police after the shooting that the judge found to be improperly obtained.
Kelley’s attorney Diana Tennis argued that some statements Kelley made came before she was read her rights and others were made after she asked police for a lawyer. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the judge ruled that a detective was “evasive” following Kelley’s request for an attorney and delayed letting her make a phone call.
However, prosecutors dropped their appeal of the ruling after Tennis informed the court last August that Kelley no longer wanted to oppose the use of the statements at trial.
"The advantage of not having this trial [delayed] to await the appeal far exceeds for her the advantage of not having the jury hear those statements," Tennis said, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Tennis gave HLN some insight Monday as to what her client’s defense will be when the trial begins next month.
According to Tennis, Kelley says she was asleep alone in her bed when she heard her house alarm beeping. Kelley then pulled out a gun she kept under her bed, not expecting Peatross to be at her home. Soon after, Kelley realized it was Peatross who had entered her bedroom. Kelley’s attorney said Peatross approached her client and grabbed her arm.
“She was scared...The jury will see the bruise,” Tennis said.
“Police believe there was a struggle over the gun. He has gunshot residue on his hands. She immediately called 911. She was hysterical,” Tennis added.
“If you listen to all the statements she made, the story that she tells about what happened matches all of the evidence in the case,” Tennis said.
Kelley was released from jail on a $100,000 bond following her arrest. The conditions of her release required her to remain on GPS monitoring.
“We are picking the jury on May 16 and 17. Opening statements are scheduled for the morning of the 20th,” Tennis said.