Trial continues for five suspects in Hoyt Birge murder

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By: WCTV Eyewitness News
September 18, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- We're following the latest developments from the courtroom as five people stand trial in the 2017 murder of Hoyt Birge.

WCTV's Michael Hudak is in court listening to testimony:

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
September 17, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Testimony continues Monday for five suspects on trial for the murder of Tallahassee man, Hoyt Birge.

Birge was ambushed, beaten and shot at a home on Mission Road in May 2017. Five of the eight people arrested in his murder-- Patrick Berrane, Page Briggs, David Howard, Vicki Strickland and Stanley West-- are now standing trial together on murder charges.

Last week, several testimonies painted a picture or Birge's final moments. A key witness says Birge was ambushed by the defendants, while their attorneys claim Birge was the aggressor and was actually planning a robbery.

We will continue to follow the latest developments on the trial.

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 14, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Testimony is now in its second day as five people stand trial for the murder of Hoyt Birge.

Jesse Fox was on the stand this morning. He’s charged as an accessory in the murder.

He testified that Page Briggs thought Birge was coming to rob him.

He testified that the four men on trial all wore bulletproof vests and waited for Birge to knock on the front door.

Fox said Briggs had a gun in one hand and a hammer in the other. He testified Berrane was holding an AK-47.

Fox said he was told to keep watch out back and after a knock on the door, he heard a gunshot and a scream. That’s when he ran from the home.

Fox said he jumped the fence and Patrick Berrane jumped right behind him. He said Berrane was distraught and crying and trying to get out of there.

On cross examination, Fox said he thought he heard Birge ask, "Why did you shoot me?" and Berrane reply, “Why did you grab the gun?”

Fox said the plan was to “dummy up” Birge, meaning beat him up, not shoot him, kill him or rob him.

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 13, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Was it an accident? Or was it murder?

Hoyt Birge was beaten and shot inside a home on Mission Road last May.

Testimony began Thursday in the trial of five people accused of killing him.

One attorney likened the crime to the movie Pulp Fiction.

One of the state's key witnesses described it all on the stand Thursday afternoon.

"It was so quick. People were just...there were hands were coming from everywhere," Peter Tournay said.

Tournay was there when it happened.

He testified he and Hoyt Birge were "startled," as friends with guns - one even wearing a bullet proof vest - ordered them to the floor.

He said Birge was fighting back and trying to get away as they pummeled him with punches and a hammer.

"I guess he was still fighting, you know, and then you just hear the gun shot go off," he said.

"Who shot Hoyt?" prosecutor Georgia Cappleman asked.

"Patrick Berrane," he said.

Tournay said the room then went silent and he tried to convince everyone he would keep his mouth shut too.

He even cleaned out the trunk of his car trunk so they could hide Birge's body.

"The facts of this case are really unbelievable," defense attorney Alex Morris said. "One would think it was out of a movie like Pulp Fiction. This isn't a movie. This is real life."

"This is a case that involves drugs. A lot of drugs," defense attorney Darren Shippy said.

Defense attorneys told the jury that Birge was plotting a robbery. They contend these five defendants - Patrick Berrane, Page Briggs, David Howard, Vicki Strickland and Stanley West - were trying to protect themselves. They claim the sole shot was fired when Birge grabbed Berrane's gun.

"He was killed accidentally," Shippy said.

Tournay disputes that. He testified for hours. At one point, the pain and the pressure were just too much.

"These people ruined my life," he said.

"I know. Do you need a break?" prosecutor Georgia Cappleman asked.

"Yes," Tournay said as he started to get up and leave the witness stand.

"Alright. Wait. Woah, woah, woah, wait for the judge," Cappleman said and he hung his head in his hands as the judge called a recess.

Testimony in the case is expected to continue Friday and likely into next week.

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
September 13, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- We're following the latest developments from the courtroom as five people stand trial in the 2017 murder of Hoyt Birge:

11:25 a.m.

The first witness on the stand is a Leon County Deputy who talked to Hoyt Birge’s friend Peter Tournay soon after the murder.

The deputy said Tournay was “terrified, paranoid and talking really fast.”

The deputy said Tournay went with Birge to the house on Mission Road and said the two of them were instantly confronted by four men with guns. Tournay told the deputy the men forced them both to the floor and started hitting Birge and shot him in a struggle. Tournay told the deputy he promised the men he’d cooperate and helped them put Birge’s body in the trunk of his car.

The deputy said Tournay had a cut to the back of his head and circle marks on his back.

Tournay’s mother was the next person on the witness stand. She said she was awakened at about 3:30 a.m. by someone banging on the door and ringing the doorbell. She said she could hear her son sobbing outside and when she let him in, he went around locking all the doors and windows. “He said, Mom I saw a murder and they’re going to kill me too.” She called 911.

Patrick Berrane‘s ex-girlfriend testified that she and Berrane had broken up in April 2017 but Berrane had left three long guns at her house for safe keeping. She said the night of the murder she got calls and texts from him asking to come get the guns.

“Something serious was happening,” she recalled one of the texts saying.

The woman testified that two other people actually came to get the guns and they were pounding on her apartment window and trying to force her front door open. She testified she let the man and woman in and they erratically wrapped the guns in blankets and trash bags and left.

“She seemed like she was on something,” she testified. She said she became increasingly uneasy and scared.

When prosecutors showed a photo of the woman’s text messages on the big screen in court, you could see at one point she texted Berrane “Be safe, P. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

10:20 a.m.

A jury - 12 jurors and two alternates - is now seated and testimony will soon begin as five people stand trial in the 2017 murder of Hoyt Birge.

“Seven people stood there. They didn’t call anyone. They didn’t apply pressure to the wounds. They stood there and watched him die,” Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman said as she described Birge’s violent death at a home on Mission Road.

Cappleman said Birge and a friend were ambushed when they walked in - people screaming at them to get on the floor - and the door was immediately locked behind them. Cappleman said Birge chose to fight.

“This is a case that involves drugs - a lot of drugs,” defense attorney Darren Shippy said. “Birge lost his life because of these drugs.”

Defense attorneys are now giving their opening statements.

Shippy represents David Howard. He contends Birge and a friend planned to rob Page Briggs and Briggs confronted them. He contends Birge was shot once when he grabbed the gun held by Patrick Berrane.

“He was killed accidentally,” Shippy said.

Defense attorney Alex Morris is representing Page Briggs. “The facts of this case are really unbelievable like out of a movie - like Pulp Fiction. It’s not a movie. It’s real life,” he said.

He contends Briggs and the others were protecting themselves against what they thought was an imminent robbery.

Chuck Hobbs represents Vicki Strickland. “She is not Super Girl. She is not Wonder Woman. She is severely addicted to alcohol and drugs,” Hobbs said. He contends Strickland did not do anything during or after the murder and should never have been charged.

Defense attorneys for Stanley West and Patrick Berrane deferred their opening arguments until the start of their case.

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