Both sides rest in Jacksonville Beach murder trial

Defense tries to prove insanity; closing arguments Friday morning

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The state and the defense have rested, and closing arguments will begin Friday morning in the trial for a Jacksonville Beach man accused of shooting and killing another man in February 2011 could.

Charles Pearce, 33, decided not to testify in his own defense Thursday afternoon, and the defense rested. The state then began calling rebuttal witnesses.

Pearce 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, then fired at his stepfather but missed.

The main defense witness Thursday was psychologist Jerry Valente, who said Pearce is insane after initially saying he is sane when first evaluating him.

Valente said Pearce's actions were not indicative of someone trying to hide because he was captured sleeping in his car out in the open in Arizona.

Michael McCue
Michael McCue

Prosecutors countered that claim, saying Pearce dropped off his trailer down a dirt road off a Florida highway and was found in the middle of nowhere in Yuma, Arizona, the .45 caliber pistol he used in the shooting nowhere in sight.

"Are you saying that he didn't know the consequences of shooting someone in the head?" prosecutor Janeen Kirch said.

"Yes, and that's supported by his behavior afterwards," Valente said.

"And are you saying that his flight across this country was not evidence of guilt?" Kirch asked.

"I think it could be, but I don't think that's the most reasonable interpretation because of the manner in which he went across the country," Valente said. "It was stalled. It wasn't planed. He was caught on the side of the road sleeping. There was no evidence of hiding."

Valente said Pearce is delusional, and Pearce was telling him his brother was trying to inject him with HIV-positive serum, in addition to Pearce's claims that Pearce's stepfather and brother were trying to steal his inheritance.

Neighbor Fia Mock also testified Thursday. She said Pearce mowed her lawn and joined her for dinner, but about four months before the shooting, he stopped and started acting strange.

"Getting closer to the incident, he told me that his brother was injecting him with the AIDS virus at night, during the night," Mock said. "It just happened. From one month to the next month, he just changed. Something, something was wrong."

Defense attorneys said Pearce was a man convinced that his family and neighbors had stolen $30 million in inheritance money that did not exist. They called witnesses to speak to Pearce's long history of mental health issues and contend his delusions became his obsession.

Prosecutors called a psychologist of their own Thursday afternoon, saying Pearce was sane at the time of the shooting.