ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A man on trial for killing a Navy commander in an Orange Park hotel room two years ago told a jury Thursday he had developed a romantic relationship with the man's estranged wife he went there to intimidate the man, not kill him.
Anthony Washington is charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of burglary with assault or battery in the death of Alfonso Doss. Doss' estranged wife, Yolinda, and another man, Ronnie Wilson II, are also accused in Doss' death.
Doss was strangled in a room at the Astoria Hotel in February 2014.
Washington admitted going to the Doss' room that night, but said things got out of hand and Doss attacked him and he fought back. He said he did not intend to kill Doss, but when the man lunged at him, he caught him by the next and threw him against the wall.
"He was climbing on the bed. As he was climbing on the bed, he goes to lunge and attack me, saying, 'I hate you,' or, 'I’m going to kill you,' or something like that," Washington said. "After he’s lunging, I catch him in midair. When I catch him in midair, he tries to hit me with a bottle, I slapped the bottle out of his hand. I throw him. When I throw him he lands kind of awkwardly on his side with his back hitting the wall."
During about three hours of testimony, Washington also portrayed Doss as a drunk and abusive toward his wife.
The state attorney hammered Washington over what he called multiple lies he told police. Washington said he was unaware he was unaware Yolinda Doss was across the street during the attack. Prosecutors also asked about the third suspect, Wilson, who prosecutors said was waiting at the door, possibly as a lookout. They also grilled him on the claim that Doss swung a bottle, but no bottle was found in the room.
During Washington's testimony, his defense attorneys asked for a mistrial over claims that jurors appeared to be sharing notes. The judge reminded two jurors they were not allowed to do that.
The prosecution rested its case on Wednesday. While making its case, prosecutors replayed interrogations investigators had with Washington after the killing.
The first was on Feb. 19, 2014.
“I asked her, I said, 'Did he kill?' I said, 'Did he kill himself, or was he drinking?'” Washington told investigators. He stuck to that story throughout the interview.
Six months later, he was back in the interrogation room as investigators told him they talked to Doss' wife and need to “clear some things up.”
Washington tried to stick to his first story, prosecutors said, but eventually, as investigators gave him some of the details they had through surveillance videos and other interviews, he gave a different version.
But it still wasn't his final version, prosecutors said.
Washington finally told investigators that he was hiding in the room, waiting for Doss to return.
Washington said he wanted to scare him for the way Doss treated his estranged wife. Eventually, Washington gave investigators more details about what happened inside the hotel room, including that he had Doss by the neck for 5 to 10 seconds.
“When I threw him on the bed, just him struggling, for whatever. I was like, 'Man, he tripping. I guess he drunk,” Washington said. “He gonna do something. He pulled all that stuff, just grabbing for whatever he could off the bed.”
Washington told investigators that he took a breathing machine out of Doss’ room. He said he took it because Doss threw it, and he wanted to take it out of spite.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that Doss' death was an elaborate setup that involved Washington waiting in a room at the Astoria Hotel for Doss to return.
Investigators said that Washington, Yolinda Doss and Wilson plotted to kill Alphonso Doss so that Ms. Doss could cash in on a $1 million life insurance policy. They said Washington and Wilson tried to make the killing look like it happened during a burglary while Yolinda Doss served as a lookout.
Crime scene photos were shown for the jury Tuesday in court, and the doctor who performed the autopsy on Doss testified that the injuries he found were consistent with injuries from a strangulation by someone's hands.
The commander’s father was in court Tuesday and did not leave the courtroom, despite the sometimes graphic pictures that were shown. He did appear emotional at times.
Defense attorneys for Washington tried to focus on Doss’ alcohol use as they addressed jurors.
It is expected that Washington will take the stand at some point Thursday as the defense begins to make its case.
Yolinda Doss and Wilson do not have trial dates set.
Text messages, surveillance video build case in Doss murder
Search warrants allowed investigators to access all three of the suspects' cellphones, and communications leading up to the slaying shows the close relationship between the three and what appears to be their desire for Cmdr. Doss’ death.
"He is becoming more and more inconvenient," Yolinda Doss allegedly wrote about her husband in a text message found among the deleted messages on her phone. It was sent little more than a month before he was strangled to death.
In other text message exchanges, Washington, a man Yolinda admitted to having an affair with, talked with Yolinda Doss about her estranged husband becoming aggressive.
Doss: "The a**hole locked himself in my other office upstairs and he won't leave. This is why my eye was hurting."
Washington: "Is he passed out"
Doss: "Drunk but not passed out just being an ass and wont leave."
Washington: "U up there with him?"
Doss: "Just chill"
Washington: "Want it to happen tonite?"
Washington: "Yes...should I leave?"
Doss: "I'm scared."
Washington: "Go downstairs."
Among the evidence in the court file is surveillance video showing a silver Nissan Titan Extended Cab truck driving by Doss' room at 3:23 p.m. One minute later two people were seen entering Cmdr. Doss' hotel room using one of the keys made for and given to Yolinda Doss earlier that day.
Based on height, investigators believe the two people to be Washington and Wilson. At that same time, phone records reveal the phone believed to be used by Washington placed a call to Yolinda Doss' cellphone.
In the next 23 minutes, four phone calls were made between Yolinda Doss' phone and Washington's phone.
At 4:08 p.m. the surveillance video shows who investigators believe to be Cmdr. Doss trying unsuccessfully to get into his room, then going to the lobby. Investigators say it is perhaps because his card doesn't work.
He then walks into his room minutes later, and around the same time, Yolinda Doss' car is seen pulling into the parking lot across the street.
Minutes after Cmdr. Doss enters the room, Yolinda Doss goes into the lobby to drop off his mail. At 4:49 p.m. two people are seen exiting room 183, then one minute later the silver Nissan Titan is seen leaving the Astoria Hotel parking lot.
Cmdr. Doss is never seen on that video again.
Investigators said Wilson and Washington met at Yolinda Doss' home later for dinner.
Both men told investigators they were at the gym, then at Washinton's parents house, but investigators found out Washington's father owns a silver Nissan Titan, which he lets his son use.
Investigators said Yolinda Doss actually went and got two keys made to her husband's hotel room, and at some point went to the room and used them. They believe that was an attempt to make sure they would work.
One of those keys was used to enter the room at the same time investigators saw the men believed to be the suspects on the surveillance video.