Fla. brothers plead guilty in slayings of Columbia men

November 04, 1998|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER Reporter Mark Johnson of the New Smyrna Beach Observer contributed to this article.

A pair of brothers pleaded guilty yesterday to their roles in the beating deaths of two Columbia men as they vacationed in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in April.

James Kirkland, 22, of Edgewater, Fla., and his brother Neil, 20, have agreed to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a recommendation from the state for lighter sentences.

Neil Kirkland, who pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder, is facing a maximum of 30 years in state prison, while James, who pleaded guilty to aggravated battery, is facing 15 years.

Neil Kirkland acknowledged that he helped organize the April 16 attack at the Ocean Palms Beach Resort after the Columbia vacationers allegedly came to the aid of a woman Kirkland and his friends were harassing.

James Kirkland admitted to beating one of the victims, but prosecutors could not determine which victim he struck.

The brothers were among a group of seven men whom prosecutors have charged in the slaying of Matthew Wichita, 21, and Kevans Bradshaw Hall II, 23.

Another Howard man, Seth Qubeck, 21, spent nearly three weeks in a Daytona Beach Hospital recuperating from being beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed 17 times.

Daniel Beard, 18, of New Smyrna Beach, and Daniel Stephan Osborne, 19, of Edgewater, pleaded guilty earlier this year. All four men's testimonies will be used against three brothers -- Jonathan, 27, Joshua, 18, and Christopher Trull, 25 -- who authorities believe led the attack.

Their trial is scheduled for Jan. 11. They each face two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. The state is seeking the death penalty in all three cases.

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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