Jurors Give Glimpse into Deliberations in Missing Body Murder Trial

By: Julie Montanaro; Matt Galka Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Matt Galka Email
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UPDATED By Julie Montanaro

Now a story you'll see only on WCTV.

Jurors speak out on what happened behind closed doors the day Elijah James was convicted of murder.

We spoke to two women asked to the weigh the evidence in Tallahassee's first murder trial without a body.

"We were all definitely convinced. There was no doubt in any juror's mind that he killed her," juror number 8 said.

Elijah James was convicted Tuesday and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Danielle Brown.

Juror number eight said all the jurors quickly agreed that Danielle Brown was dead and that Elijah James was responsible for her death. What took four and a half hours, she said, was deciding between first degree murder and second. They all agreed on murder in the second degree.

"We had someone's life in our hands basically and again we wanted to make sure we made the right decision by both parties. So I think we were all on the same page as far as his guilt. It was just the matter of the level of guilt.," juror number 8 said.

It was the first murder case of its kind in Tallahassee. Brown's body has never been found.

Both juror number 8 and juror number 11 - who turned out to be an alternate - said that was a big question in their mind at first.

"Initially I was real interested to see how they brought this to trial without a body. So I was very open minded, thinking, well, they either have some really good evidence or not enough and as the case went on I really felt like not only did they have good evidence, they had more than enough evidence," the alternate juror said.

Juror number 8 says she was impressed by the magnitude and meticulousness of the evidence. Juror 11 was struck by James' lies. Both were stunned by talk of chain saws and hog pens.

"That was hard and you're trying to envision in your mind what truly did happen to her? How did she die? The amount of blood in different areas. It seemed like a brutal murder," juror number 8 said.

Both jurors agreed to talk as long as it was anonomously. The defense has already promised an appeal.


UPDATED By Julie Montanaro
April 3, 2013

A man convicted in Tallahassee's first murder case to be tried without a body will appeal.

Elijah James was found guilty yesterday of second degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Danielle Brown. She disappeared in February 2010 and her body has never been found.

James was sentenced to life in prison for it.

His attorneys confirm today that they will file an appeal on Monday.

Defense attorney Greg Cummings says he'll object to the state striking three African American jurors as well as potentially improper comments made by prosecutors in their closing arguments.

Prosecutor Jack Campbell says appeals are expected.


By Garin Flowers
April 2, 2013

Three years and a week long trial later, a jury found Elijah James guilty of killing his girlfriend Danielle Brown.

He was convicted on charges of 2nd degree murder instead of 1st degree murder, leaving the death penalty off the table.

He was sentenced to life in prison.

"It's a huge relief to have it over, but you know the result weren't exactly what we were hoping for but he did not get away with it," said Brown's cousin Rene Gray.

It was an emotional trial for Danielle Brown's family. Prosecutors say James killed her back in February 2010. Jurors weighed days of testimony and more than 100 pieces of evidence before reaching a verdict in just four and a half hours.

"Were just glad that this is over with and that and we can go on with our lives," great aunt Janet Fuller said.

Family members say James' life sentence provides only some closure because Brown's body still has yet to be found. This is the first murder case ever to be tried in Tallahassee without a body.

"Agonizing, just not knowing where she is and having a definitive answer as to what happened."

Now, memories of her smile, laugh and fun spirit is what family members hope to hold on to.

"She was always a sweet little girl always pretty"

"She had this big hug and she just squeezed you and you always knew that she loved you and she was just happy to see you."


By: Julie Montanaro
April 2, 2013

A jury has reached a verdict in Tallahassee's first murder case to be tried without a body.

The jury deliberated for four and half hours before finding Elijah James guilty of killing Danielle Brown.

The verdict comes after reviewing days of testimony and more than 100 pieces of evidence.

"We did not find her body, we found her DNA. The thing that made her Danielle Brown is on this shovel," prosecutor Jack Poitinger said as he made his final arguments earlier today.

Prosecutors contend Elijah James bought the shovel the morning after Danielle Brown disappeared. Her DNA was found on the spade, analysts testified, and in her bloody car.

Prosecutors pointed out six people testified Elijah James admitted to killing Brown and two of them said he'd dumped her body in a hog pen.

"Who was with her when she went from a daughter, a sister, a friend, a member of this community to bits and pieces of biology? Elijah James," prosecutor Jack Campbell said.

Defense attorneys say the stories of chain saws and hog pens don't prove anything.

"It doesn't tell you what happened on King Post Way, it doesn't," defense attorney Greg Cummings told the jury.

He suggested to the jury it may have been excusable homicide, that perhaps James snapped while Brown hurled racial slurs and forced him to sit in the backseat of her car.

Cummings read the statute to the jury saying a killing is legal "when the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion upon any sudden and sufficient provocation."

"The words she used to describe Elijah in the back," he said.

"How many blows to the head does it take to kill a 21 year old girl? I would suggest to you that his hand hurt before she died," Campbell countered.

Jurors weighed days of testimony and more than 100 pieces of evidence before reaching a verdict in just four and a half hours.

It's important to clarify, the jury found James guilty of second degree murder and theft of motor vehicle. That means he will not face the death penalty.

He will face an automatic life sentence.


By: Matt Galka
Updated April 2, 2013, 5:22 p.m.

The jury has reached a verdict in the Elijah James trial, finding him guilty of 2nd degree murder and theft of a motor vehicle.

Because it was 2nd degree murder, and not first degree murder, the death penalty is off the table. Yet James faces a mandatory life sentence.



By: Matt Galka
Updated April 2, 2013, 2:58pm

The defense and state have agreed to allow a state psychologist to evaluate James during the penalty phase of this trial.

The defense said that their evaluations of James have shown a significant decrease in IQ, making him a "good candidate for life imprisonment" and not the death penalty. The state psychologist will examine James beginning tomorrow. Still awaiting a verdict.


By: Julie Montanaro
Updated 12:33pm

The jury is now deliberating in the robbery and murder trial of Elijah James.


By: Julie Montanaro
Updated April 2, 2013
Noon

The defense said there's all kinds of stories about what happened to Danielle Brown including being chopped up and fed to the hogs.

Defense attorney Greg Cummings said imagine if someone used a chain saw. There would be blood everywhere. Yet, Cummings said, there was no blood found on any of James's clothes. And when he showed up at his cousin's house the next morning, no one noticed any blood on him.

Defense attorneys reminded the jury that a cell mate testified James told him he snapped.

He says more than one witness mentioned Brown was screaming at James and using racial slurs during an argument that night, but James didn't say much of anything. He said Brown forced him to sit in the backseat "like a second class citizen."

He suggested the jury consider that this could have been an excusable homicide which happened in the heat of passion or by sudden or sufficient provocation.

He says there may have been deception afterward. He says it's possible James might have been scared because "a black male kills a white female."


Updated by Julie Montanaro
April 2, 2013 10am

Prosecutors are now making their final arguments to the jury.

Jack Poitinger held up a picture of Danielle Brown and said she may have chosen "a path that many others would not, but she was loved."

Poitinger reminded jurors that their decision has the potential to bring the death penalty. He reminded them that the state is not required to produce her body or prove how she died.

Poitinger said Danielle Brown did not die as a result of her involvement in adult entertainment or prostitution.

Poitinger says Brown was killed after she kicked James out of her house. She told him to sit in the backseat. "Was he feeling the sting of disrespect?"

Poitinger called James "cunning." Poitinger said when asked about Brown's disappearance, James said he would do anything he could to help. James says the last time he saw Brown, she dropped him off and drove away, Poitinger said, and said there was no way he could drive Brown's car because he didn't have the keys.

And yet, James and his cousin showed up at the Circle K in Bradfordville at 5:30 the next morning in Danielle Brown's car. It was captured on videotape.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
April 2, 2013

A jury will likely begin deliberating later today in the murder trial of Elijah James.

James is accused of killing his girlfriend, Danielle Brown, back in February 2010. Her body has never been found.

James has already been convicted of arson in Georgia for setting her car on fire. It was found abandoned at a city dump in Pavo a few days after Brown disappeared. James's mother and two sisters live in that small town.

This is the first murder case ever to be tried in Tallahassee without a body.

Prosecutors are counting on DNA evidence, surveillance video, and witnesses who claim James admitted to killing Brown and dumping her body in a hog pen.

The judge is reading instructions to the jury right now and attorneys are expected to begin closing arguments shortly.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
April 1, 2013, 6:10 p.m.

Both the prosecution and defense have rested their cases. Closing arguments will begin in the morning.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
April 1, 2013

DNA evidence is piling up in Tallahassee’s first ever murder case without a body.

Elijah James is accused of killing Danielle Brown and hiding her body. Prosecutors contend there's no smoking gun, but there's a bloody shovel.

Elijah James' trial stretched into its second week, and though Danielle Brown's body has never been found, prosecutors are hoping DNA evidence will convince the jury she was beaten to death, stuffed in the trunk, and dumped.

"Did you find any remnant of her?" Jack Campbell, Prosecutor, said.

"No," replied LCSO Lead Investigator, Mike Reeves.

FDLE analyst Amy George testified a visit to the Miccosukee home of James' mother revealed a swath of blood near the oak tree at the end of the drive.

"Did you think you were going to find anything since it had been two weeks?" Campbell said.

"No, especially because it had rained," replied Amy George, FDLE analyst.

"And did you find something?" Asked Campbell.

"Yes," was Georges’ reply.

George examined Brown's car too. She testified Brown's Buick had been wiped down and set on fire, but DNA survived.

George claims there was blood in the driver's seat and despite the carpet being ripped out of the trunk, there was blood pooled on the steel below .and splatter indicating a beating.

"I saw a red brown staining," Claudette Silver, FDLE analyst, said.

Prosecutors had analysts examine a shovel they claim James bought the morning after Brown disappeared.

"Then I swabbed around the edge and that actually gave me a whole DNA profile that matched the DNA profile of Danielle Brown," said Silver.

Late this afternoon, the prosecution rested its case against Elijah James. The defense also rested without calling any witnesses. Closing arguments begin in the morning.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
April 1, 2013, 10 a.m.

FDLE analyst Amy George testified she also processed Elijah James's mother's house on King Post Way in Miccosukkee.

She said she was sent there 12 days after Danielle Brown disappeared and didn't expect to find anything, especially because it had rained heavily in between.

George said she sprayed a chemical called Blue Star there, which glows in the dark when exposed to blood.

She said a swath illuminated near an oak tree and a mulberry bush near the end of the driveway. An earring and a button from some South Pole jeans were found in that swath as well.

On cross examination, George testified she had no way of knowing how long the blood had been in the car or how long ago the fingerprint was left behind.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
April 1, 2013

FDLE crime lab analyst Amy George is on the stand. She processed Danielle Brown's car for evidence.

She says she spent 30 hours processing the car and took 76 swabs.

George testified she found touch DNA on the driver side rear door.

She found suspected blood in the drivers seat and on the drivers side rear triangle window. She testified she also found suspected blood in the trunk.

George testified there were signs that someone tried to wipe down the car. She said there was a sponge on the back seat.

She also said two of the car's VIN numbers had been removed and a section of the carpet in the trunk had been ripped out.

George testified the car had also been burned.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 28, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

Jailhouse snitches say Elijah James confessed to killing Danielle Brown.

They claim he chopped up her body and fed it to the hogs. We warn you some of the testimony is graphic.

"He asked did I think God would forgive him for what he did to his girlfriend," said Kevin Prim, Inmate.

Kevin Prim shared a cell with Elijah James at the Leon County Jail.

He says James told him that he and Danielle Brown got into a violent fight, that she fought back, but he ultimately beat her, had sex with her and then dragged her body out of the car.

It's what Prim said next that made jurors wince.

"He said he threw her body in the hog pen," Prim said.

Defense attorneys claim Prim is a 26 time convicted felon looking to shorten his own prison sentence.

"Mr. Prim, for 22 years you've been involved in being a professional snitch, haven't you?" Greg Cummings, Defense Attorney, said.

Yet Elijah James' own cousin said James told him the same thing.

"It was something about chopping her up and feeding her to the hogs...something like that; he said something like that sir," Eugene Forbes, James' Cousin, said.

Forbes says James joked about it and scoffed at a news report about the search for Danielle Brown.

"I remember he stated, um, they would never find her. I don't know why they keep looking for her," Forbes said.

James is accused of killing Brown in February 2010. Her car was found torched and abandoned in Pavo, Ga. and despite searches in two states her body has never been found.

The courts are closed tomorrow. The trial will resume Monday.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 28, 2013, 11:45 a.m.

Elijah James's cousin Eugene Forbes said he talked to James while the two of them were in jail together.

Forbes says James said something about "chopping her up and feeding her to the hogs." He says after a story aired on the news about Danielle Brown's disappearance James said, they'll never find her, I don't know why they keep looking for her.

Also on the stand, Demetrius Walden who shared a cell with James in the Thomas County Jail. He says he is a two time convicted felon.

Walden says James would joke about where Danielle was during the day, but at night after lock down James would say how much he missed Danielle.

Walden says James told him he and Danielle got into an argument and she pulled over and tried to "put him out " on the side of the road and they got into a fight.

Walden says James told him he set Brown's car on fire in Pavo, but he did it wrong because he left the windows up.

Walden says James said they would never find his clothes because he burned them.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 28, 2013
11am

An inmate who shared a cell with Elijah James testified that James told him he killed Danielle Brown and threw her in a hog pen because they eat all the bones.

The man admitted he is a drug addict and a thief with 26 felony convictions.

He testified James came to him and asked if he thought God would forgive him for what he did to his girlfriend.

He testified James told him he and Danielle Brown were arguing and she pulled over to talk. He claims James said he started beating Brown. He punched her in the mouth and knocked her tooth out. The inmate says James had sex with her and then tried to pull her out of the car. She was holding on to the steering wheel with one hand and the arm rest with the other.

The inmate said James told him he pulled Brown out of the car, continued to beat her, took money out of her pocket and then threw her body in a hog pen.

The inmate says James told him he took the money and went to get high.

The defense attorney asked the inmate if he was a professional snitch because he testified in another murder trial years ago.

The defense attorney pointed out that the inmate wrote prosecutors in this case a letter asking "Was I worth a break?" They suggested he was trying to get prosecutors to lessen his current prison sentence in exchange for his testimony.

Defense attorneys asked if he had committed crimes of dishonesty including petit theft and bad checks. He said yes. "Never killed anyone though," he said.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 28, 2013
9:45am

An investigator with the Georgia Fire Marshal is on the stand this morning.

He collected evidence from Danielle Brown's car which was found burned at the Pavo city dump a few days after she disappeared. Its license plate and VIN numbers had been removed.

The investigator says fires were started both in the front seat and back seat. He says whoever set the fire closed all the windows and shut the doors, so the fire burned quickly and went out. He says if the windows had been left open there would be nothing left of the car but the frame and there would be little to no chance of collecting DNA or fingerprints.

The same investigator went to Elijah James mother's house in Pavo the next day.

He collected samples from a burn pile near a pecan tree out back and photographed gas cans and a shovel beneath the back porch.

He also collected a pair of camoflauge pants, a brown hoodie, work boots, two sweat shirts and other items from one of the bedrooms.

He says he sent all the items to the lab to be tested.

He says he did not collect the shovel that day or a white trash bag because he did not yet know they had any evidentiary link to the case.


By: Julie Montanaro
March 27, 2013
6pm

Tallahassee, FL - Surveillance video played on a screen ten feet tall as Elijah James stands trial for killing his girlfriend. Her body has never been found. Yet his cousin took the stand today and said James pulled up in her car the morning after she disappeared.

"As long as he was buying the beer I was ready to roll." Solomon Mills says Elijah James woke him from a sound sleep the morning of February 6th, 2010. He says it was 5:30 in the morning and James wanted to go buy beer. Mills says James was driving Danielle Brown's car.

"When I got out to the car, he was umm ... had the back door open on the driver's side and he was doing something with the back seat and I went to get in the car and he told me don't get in yet . Looked to me like he was putting something .. spreading something across the back seat. "

Mills says he never looked in the back seat - or the trunk - and the two went to Circle K to buy a case of Natural Light and a pack of cigarettes.That visit was caught on surveillance tape which prosecutors claim clearly shows Brown's car parked right outside. Mills says when they got home, James started counting money on the table.

"He had 980 something dollars and he laid it out on the table like he was playing solitare." and started cursing Danielle. "He used the B word and he told me they had an altercation of some sort, but I didn't read too much into it."

This afternoon, jurors got to see more surveillance video. It was recorded at the Thomasville Lowe's later the same day. It showed Elijah James buying a chain saw, trash bags and a shovel. Items the defense contends are standard equipment for a climber who works trimming trees.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 27, 2013, 12 p.m.

Both of Elijah James' sisters took the stand.

His younger sister Carmen Diggs testified Elijah James showed up at her house in Pavo, Georgia Saturday afternoon. She testified she lives there with her mother.

Diggs says James told her mother that he and Danielle Brown had broken up and he needed a place to stay for a while.

Diggs said he showed up in a brown jacket, with either brown or camouflage pants and white, pink and gray shoes.

She said when she got home from work that night she saw smoke and noticed James picking up sticks in the yard. She assumed he was burning yard debris because he often cleaned up the yard when he came to the house.

His sister Rebecca Presley testified James showed up at her home in Pavo early that morning. She says he knocked on the door at about 8:30 am.

Presley testified James pulled up in a silver Buick and parked out back.

She said she and her family were headed out to get haircuts and James came with them. Presley said he asked them to take him to the Lowe's in Thomasville.

Presley said James went in by himself and came back with a shovel, a chain saw and some gloves. She said he handed her the receipt to hold because there was a warranty on the chain saw.

Presley said they stopped at a Citgo to get gas on the way home and James bought a gas can and filled it up.

Presley said when they got home, James loaded the items into the silver car.

She testified that James told her he had dropped Danielle off at a motel and was waiting for her to call him back.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 27, 2013, 11 a.m.

Solomon Mills testified that he was sound asleep on the couch when his cousin Elijah James walked into his house at about 5:30 in the morning February 6, 2010.

Mills said it "rattled him" but he got up and turned the lights on. He said James asked for a drink but he didn't have any. So James suggested going to the nearby Circle K to get some beer.

"As long as he was buying the beer I was ready to roll," Mills said with a laugh.

Mills said Danielle's car was parked outside.

Mills said James had the driver's side door and the back door open and was "doing something in the back seat." He said James told him to give him a minute and looked like he was spreading something out over the back seat.

Mills said the two went to the Circle K in Bradfordville and bought beer and cigarettes. He confirmed it was he and James in the surveillance video.

Mills said that when they got home James drank only a couple sips of beer. He said James started counting out money on the table. He said he was laying out bills "like solitaire." He says there was about $980

Mills testified that James told him he and Danielle Brown had gotten into "some type of altercation," but I didn't read too much into it.

Mills said James used words like the "B" word and called women "trash."

On cross examination, defense attorneys asked Mills what he did for a living. Mills said he was a climber who worked trimming and cutting down trees. He said he had his own equipment, including a chain saw and spikes.

Mills said James usually worked with him and had his own equipment.


UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
March 27, 2013
9:30am

Prosecutors are now playing a surveillance tape that appears to show Elijah James and his cousin walking into the Circle K in Bradfordville the morning after Brown disappeared.

The time stamp on the tape is 5:46am.

It shows the men pull up in a silver four door. It shows James' cousin waving to someone in the store and then bring a case of beer to the register. It shows James waiting near the register.

Surveillance video shows James paid for the beer and a pack of cigarettes. The receipt from register two said it cost $22.12.

The surveillance video shows James wearing camouflage pants, a black t-shirt and a brown jacket.


UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
March 27, 2013
9:15am

LCSO SGT Mike Reeves interviewed Elijah James four days after Danielle Brown disappeared.

Reeves said James told him he would never hurt Danielle and he didn't know where she was or what happened to her.

He said during the course of the four hour interview James mentioned 7 times that he would do anything to find her, mentioned 14 times that she dropped him off and drove away alone, and mentioned 26 times that he would tell the truth.

Reeves said James claimed to have driven around Miccosukkee all night with "Roscoe and Patricia" and then paid a guy named "Chuck" $25 to drive him to his mother's house in Pavo, Georgia.

Reeves said he denied driving Danielle Brown's car the day after she disappeared and mentioned 6 times that he did not have the keys.

Reeves said James never mentioned stopping by Circle K to buy beer or a trip to Lowe's, and denied ever having been to the Pavo dump.


UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
March 26, 2013
7pm

A Tallahassee man is now on trial for killing his girlfriend even though her body has never been found.

Prosecutors claim to have DNA evidence to prove Elijah James killed Danielle Brown, but defense attorneys suggested there may be another explanation.

Sonja Brown sobbed as she described the night her daughter Danielle kicked Elijah James out of the house. Danielle drove away in a Silver Buick, her mother testified, and she never saw her again.

"She never came home," Brown said.

"Have you seen or heard from your daughter since the night she went out that night with that man?"

"No."

"Is that your sister?" prosecutor Jack Campbell asked as he showed her a glossy 8x10 photo.

"Yes sir," answered Danielle's sister Nicole Brown Sheffield.

Danielle's sister called James the day after she disappeared to see if he knew where she was.

"He said she dropped him off at King Post and she drove away," Sheffield testified.

Prosecutors contend James killed Brown that night and torched her car to cover it up. Prosecutors say they found Brown's blood in the driver's seat and pooled in the trunk and even found DNA found on a shovel James bought the next day.

"The shovel he bought the day after she went missing at Lowe's holds her DNA on the spade," Campbell told the jury in his opening statements.

"No body, no cause of death. How did she die?" defense attorney Greg Cummings said in his opening remarks. "I would suggest there's a lack of evidence."

Defense attorney Greg Cummings suggested there's plenty of room for doubt. He asked lots of questions about other men Danielle knew.

"She would call when she got there and when she left," Danielle's cousin Nancy Udell testified.

Udell testified she and Danielle were in the adult entertainment industry together at least temporarily until Danielle found a new job.

She denied that Danielle had gone to the Dutch Inn to meet a man the night she disappeared.

"We did not have a business appointment," she told the jury.

This afternoon, deputies described the search for Brown's body.

Prosecutors say 12 agencies spent 56-hundred hours searching both in Florida and Georgia.


UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
March 26, 2013
12:30pm

Danielle Brown's cousin was the last person to speak with her before she disappeared.

Nancy Udell testified she spoke to Danielle Brown at about 11:30 that night. She testified Danielle told her she was taking Elijah James back to his mother's house. Udell testified Danielle was really upset and called James a racial slur while she was on the phone with her.

She said after Brown calmed down, the two made plans to connect later that night and meet some friends for drinks.

Udell says she is in the adult entertainment business and Brown started working with her New Year's Eve. She said Brown was only doing it temporarily until she could find another job.

Udell said she normally got the calls and guys could request either her or Danielle.

On cross examination, Udell admitted Danielle did go to some calls alone. When Danielle went by herself, she said, she always called when she arrived and when she left. "Always," Udell said.

Defense attorneys asked if Danielle Brown had a job the night of her disappearance and the cousin said no. She said they were meeting some guys that night for dancing and drinks, but not for anything else.


Updated
By Julie Montanaro
March 26 11:30 am

Danielle Brown's mother said Elijah James lived with her and her daughter for a few months prior to Danielle's disappearance.

She says Danielle was very angry that night because she had told Elijah James he needed to pack up and move out and she came home to find him sleeping in her bed.

Sonya Brown says James told her he'd been asked to leave and she wished him good luck.

Brown says Danielle never came home.

Brown says she tried to call Danielle on her cell phone all day Saturday but it kept going straight to voice mail. She called James too. I told him we couldn't find her and he told me she was going to meet a drug dealer and a man named Phil, she said.

"Did he tell you he was riding around in her car?"
the prosecutor asked.

"No."

Brown reported her daughter missing.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 26, 2013
11:06 am

Danielle Brown's sister is the first witness on the stand.

Nicole Brown Sheffield testified she heard her sister yelling at Elijah James that Friday night and she saw him loading items in the back seat of her car.

She said Danielle Brown was in the driver's seat and Elijah James was in the back seat when they drove away. She said that was the last time she saw or heard from her sister.

Sheffield says she called Elijah James on Sunday to ask if he knew where Danielle was and he said she had dropped him off on King Post Way and drove off. He told her Danielle Brown had gone to the Dutch Inn to meet a man named Phil.

Both the prosecutor and defense attorney asked Sheffield if she knew her sister had turned to prostitution. She said no.

Sheffield said James called her on Monday to tell her he was going in for questioning and he was cooperating with the missing persons investigation.

Sheffield says Danielle's room is still just as she left it. She cried as the prosecutor showed her a picture of Danielle Brown and then showed it to the jury.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 26, 2013
10:10am

Defense attorneys urged jurors not to be swayed by assumptions and speculation.

Greg Cummings said there was "No body, no cause of death. How did she die?" Cummings said there is a lack of evidence. He said verdicts are not based on speculation, but proof beyond a reasonable doubt.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 26, 2013 9:50 am

Prosecutors told the jury they would not be able to bring them a corpse, but it would bring them proof of a murder.

Prosecutor Jack Campbell said Danielle Brown's life "came to an end at the end of King Post Way." He says outside the dilapidated home of James's mother, investigators found Danielle Brown's earring, a button from her jeans and blood sprayed on the ground.

The prosecutor said they have surveillance video of Elijah James pulling up to a Circle K in Brown's car the morning after Brown disappeared and video of James buying a shovel, a chain saw, trash bags and more at Lowe's later that day.

The prosecutor said James's DNA was found on torn pieces of Brown's drivers license which were found on the side of the road.

Campbell said they found Brown's blood in the drivers seat and in trunk of her car. He said it had soaked down to the steel. He also said both James and Brown's DNA were found on the pressure washer and a log chain as well as on the spade of the shovel James bought at Lowe's.


Updated by Julie Montanaro
March 26, 2013
9:15am

Defense attorneys are questioning why some potential jurors were stricken from the panel for saying they would vote to abolish the death penalty and others were not.

Defense attorney Clyde Taylor says three black people were stricken for it, but some white people were not. He says he does not think the prosecution's choices were "race-neutral."

The judge upheld the strikes saying, "I don't feel there was a pattern of excluding blacks from the jury."

The defense moved to start jury selection all over again. The judge denied that request.

The defense then moved for a mistrial. The judge denied that too.


UPDATED
By Julie Montanaro
March 25, 2013 7pm

A Tallahassee man accused in the disappearance and murder of his girlfriend is now on trial.

It's the first murder case to ever go to trial in Leon County without a body.

Elijah James walked into court in an olive green suit. He is on trial for robbing and killing girlfriend Danielle Brown back in February 2010.

It's the first time anyone has stood trial for murder in Leon County without a body.

"Danielle Brown and Elijah James left her home off Springhill Road headed to King Post Way in Leon County near Miccosukkee. She has never been seen again and her body has never been found," prosecutor Jack Campbell told the jury pool.

150 prospective jurors were summoned in this case. That's five times the usual jury pool.

They are trying to find 12 jurors and a couple of alternates who have not been swayed by extensive coverage of Danielle Brown's disappearance, repeated searches for her body, and James' arson conviction in Georgia for torching her car.

"Do you feel like you can eliminate or disregard anything that you have heard or read pertaining to this case and render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence?" Circuit Judge James Hankinson asked.

An FSU law professor says it's increasingly common to try murder cases without bodies, especially if there's strong forensic evidence like DNA.

Brown's family is expected in court to hear the testimony. They've said previously they are confident there's enough evidence to convict James even without Danielle's body.

Late this afternoon, attorneys agreed on 12 jurors and two alternates.

Opening arguments are slated to begin first thing in the morning.


By: Julie Montanaro
March 25, 2013, 4:49 p.m.

Attorneys have just selected 12 jurors and two alternates.

Opening statements and testimony will begin in the morning.


By: Julie Montanaro
March 25, 2013

Dozens of prospective jurors are now being questioned individually behind closed doors.

27 of the first 50 prospective jurors questioned said they knew nothing about the facts of this case. The rest are being questioned behind closed doors now.

The judge wants to know what they have heard or read about this case, whether they have formed any opinions about Elijah James guilt or innocence, and whether they could reach a verdict based only on the evidence presented in court.

The judge said the trial is likely to last two weeks. Judge James Hankinson said the jury will not be sequestered during the trial, but may be sequestered during deliberations.


By: Julie Montanaro
March 25, 2013

Jury selection is now underway in the murder trial of Elijah James. The state is seeking the death penalty against him.

It will be the first murder case ever tried in Leon County without a body.

James is accused killing his girlfriend Danielle Brown in February 2010.

The clerk has summoned 150 prospective jurors over the next two days.

Veteran prosecutor Jack Poitinger has come out of retirement to help Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell try the case. Poitinger is best known for prosecuting serial killer Ted Bundy back in the 1980's. He is working on this case pro bono.


By: Julie Montanaro
January 25, 2013

A death warrant signed by Florida's governor has temporarily derailed a Tallahassee murder case.

Elijah James was set to stand trial next week, but his lawyer must now turn his attention from keeping James off death row to keeping another man off the execution table.

The decision came on the eve of trial. Elijah James would not face a judge and jury on Monday in the murder of his girlfriend Danielle Brown.

That will have to wait until March.

"When we told him about the issue, he's not happy," defense attorney Greg Cummings said. "He would love to have gone to trial, but, it's only about 60 days so it's not bad."

"The issue" is co-counsel Clyde Taylor must now handle appeals and last minute filings for Paul Howell. Howell is on death row for the bomb blast murder of Jefferson County trooper Jimmy Fulford. The governor signed Howell's death warrant last week and set his execution for February 26th.

"He certainly can't work on Mr. James's case while working on Mr. Howell's case," Cummings said. "Mr. Taylor has a much more immediate and serious case pending that he needs to tend to and the court graciously understood that and so did the state, all of us reluctantly."

James's legal team said it would be willing to move forward with the trial anyway with one attorney, if the state took the death penalty off the table.

Prosecutors answered Friday with a resounding "no."

"None of the facts of this case have changed. The state's decision to seek the death penalty in this case has not changed and we will continue to seek the death penalty here," prosecutor Jack Campbell said.

"The family is ready for this case to be resolved and we're looking forward to getting it in front of a jury," Campbell said.

The case is now set to go to trial March 25th.

It will be the first murder case tried in Tallahassee without a body.

Danielle Brown disappeared in February 2010. Her car was found torched in Georgia, but her remains have never been found.


By: Julie Montanaro
January 25, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A judge has postponed the murder trial of Elijah James.

He was set to go to trial on Monday.

The judge reset his trial for March 25th.


By: Julie Montanaro
January 25, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A decision on whether to drop the death penalty or delay proceedings is expected to be made today in the trial of Elijah James. One of the attorneys must defend a man scheduled for execution on February 26, and death penalty cases cannot proceed with just one attorney.

WCTV will bring you more information as it is available.


By: Julie Montanaro

UPDATED 1.24.2013

A Tallahassee man set to stand trial for murder, without a body, is now waiting to find out if he'll face the death penalty or not.

Elijah James is supposed go on trial Monday for the 2010 murder of his girlfriend Danielle Brown.

Her car was found torched at a city dump in Pavo, Georgia, but her body has never been found.

It's the first murder case ever to be tried in Tallahassee without a body.

Today James' attorneys argued there shouldn't be a trial at all.

They tried to have the case dismissed.

Defense Attorney Clyde Taylor argued "We don't have a body, we don't have a cause of death if there was a death, we don't have a location, we don't have proof that anything occurred in the state of Florida."

The judge refused to dismiss the case.

The big question now is whether James will face the death penalty, The state has planned on it.

But today, one of Elijah James' defense attorneys announced he'll need to handle appeals for Paul Howell.

The governor signed Howell's death warrant last week for the murder of Jefferson County trooper Jimmy Fulford. He's set to be executed on February 26th.

If the state agrees to drop the death penalty, James' trial could go forward with one defense attorney on Monday.

Otherwise the trial will be delayed.

rosecutors must now confer with the victim's family before making a decision. They're expected to let the judge know by tomorrow afternoon.


UPDATED 9.30.2011 by Julie Montanaro

A Tallahassee man accused of killing his girlfriend, hiding her body and torching her car will stand trial for it in the spring of 2012.

Elijah James is accused of killing Danielle Brown. She disappeared in February 2010, but her body has never been found.

James is already serving a 20 year sentence for arson in Georgia for setting Brown's car on fire and abandoning it at a city dump in Pavo.

This morning, a judge set a date for his murder trial of May 7, 2012.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against James.


UPDATED 6.14.2011 by Julie Montanaro

A man imprisoned for arson in Georgia and awaiting trial for murder in Florida is demanding a new trial in the peach state.

Elijah James is accused in the disappearance and murder of Danielle Brown.

He has already been convicted of arson for torching her car and abandoning it at a city dump in Pavo, Georgia. He's serving a 20 year prison sentence for that.

James's attorney filed a motion for a new trial in Thomas County's Superior Court back in February. He claims the verdict and sentence are not supported by the evidence.

A hearing on the request for a new trial was set for this week, but it has been postponed. A new date has not yet been set.

Meanwhile, James is awaiting trial on murder charges in Leon County, Florida. His next court date on those charges is scheduled for September 30th.


[UPDATE] 3-30 10am -

At a status hearing for Elijah James this morning, a case management hearing was scheduled for October 26.


UPDATED 2.22.2011 by Julie Montanaro

The man accused of killing Danielle Brown is now facing the death penalty for it.

Elijah James was brought back to Florida to face murder charges yesterday and today the state filed its notice to seek the death penalty against him.

Brown disappeared more than a year ago. Her body has never been found, but James was indicted for her murder and has already been found guilty of arson in Georgia for setting fire to her car.

The state says while it is unusual to try a murder case without a body, every case has its challenges.

"This office will continue to prosecute cases not because they're easy, but because they're important and we believe that there's sufficient evidence. I'm comfortable that the evidence will be able to support a conviction in this case," said prosecutor Jack Campbell.

James made his first court appearance in Leon County this morning. He was denied bond and appointed a public defender.

"We feel the arson trial in Georgia paved the way for what is to come in Florida as we expect much of the same result. We look forward to obtaining justice for Danielle," said family spokesperson Nicole Brown Sheffield.

Sheffield says the family fully supports the state's decision to seek the death penaltyn against James.


[UPDATE] 2-22 1:25pm -- by Julie Montanaro

The state has filed a notice that it will seek the death penalty in the Elijah James murder case. The notice was filed today, Feb. 22.


[UPDATE] 2-22 11am --

The man accused in the disappearance of Danielle Brown is back in Tallahassee to face murder charges.

Elijah James was booked into the Leon County Jail (2-21) around 3pm yesterday afternoon.

James was extradited from Thomas County where he was convicted of arson earlier this month for torching Danielle Brown's car.
Brown disappeared on February 5th last year. Though James faces charges for her murder, Brown's body had never been found.


February 17, 2011 7:05pm by Julie Montanaro

A man accused in the disappearance of Danielle Brown will soon be coming back to Tallahassee to face murder charges.

Elijah James signed a waiver of extradition Thursday afternoon, confirmed Thomas County Sheriff's Office CAPT Steve Jones.

That paves the way for deputies to pick him up from the Thomas County Jail, bring him back across the state line and book him into the Leon County Jail.

James was convicted of arson in Georgia earlier this month for torching Brown's car. Now he'll await trial on murder charges in Tallahassee.

Danielle Brown disappeared back on February 5, 2010. James was indicted for her murder, but her body has never been found.

An LCSO spokesman says James could be transported back to Leon County as early as tomorrow.


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