Man on trial in Jacksonville Beach murder

Defense claiming insanity in 2011 shooting death

Charles Pearce appears in court.
Charles Pearce appears in court.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The trial began Tuesday for a Jacksonville Beach man accused of shooting and killing another man in February 2011.

Charles Pearce, 33, is charged with murder in the shooting death of 42-year-old Mike McCue (pictured below) and attempted murder of his stepfather, Michael Otis, in Jacksonville Beach.

Prosecutors said Pearce shot McCue -- a Jacksonville firefighter --

Michael McCue
Michael McCue

then fired at his stepfather but missed.

Otis, was among the first to testify for the prosecution, saying, "I opened the door and (Pearce) spit in my face."

Otis was calm as he described the mental break his stepson had around his 30th birthday.

"As I was passing 17th Street, Charles produced a gun and leveled it at me," Otis said.

He said he was less than eight feet away when Pearce pulled out a gun and aimed it at his head.

"He aimed it at me and as I went by him he shot it at me," Otis said.

Prosecutors said McCue was in his front yard when he was "hunted down" with a .45-caliber pistol and killed in his own driveway.

His girlfriend, Michelle Rodriguez, broke down as she relived that February afternoon. She said she didn't see McCue.

"I just asked what was going on," she said while crying.

Pearce was initially ruled not competent for prosecution, but after two years of treatment in a mental health facility, he was declared competent last year and set for trial.

The defense is still pleading insanity.

Defense attorney Darcy Galnor did not dispute her client killed McCue and tried to kill Otis. Instead, she argued this point:

"Don't let the evidence of the killing dissuade or distract you from the issue," Galnor said. "There's a very narrow issue in this case and it's the why, not the how."

"The only question that you are here to decide is if Mr. Pearce was insane at the time he committed his murder," Galnor added.

Galnor said Pearce has a long history of mental illness. The defense contends he was insane at the time of the shootings and believed McCue and others were stealing his inheritance money -- money that was a delusion, but one Pearce believed in and became obsessed with.

"He was living in an insane world, and in this world he lost reality and he lost the sense of right and wrong," Galnor said.

Prosecutors said he had revenge in his head and hatred in his heart when we went after McCue and his stepfather over inheritance money.

"This defendant shot and killed Mike McCue and shot at Michael Otis because he believed they wronged him," Deputy State Attorney Janeen Kirch said. "He believed that they stole money from him. And he wanted revenge."

Testimony will continue Wednesday. The trial is expected to wrap up by the end of the week.