Prosecutors to seek death penalty for man accused of lighting woman on fire

Carol Renee Demmons, 56, attacked inside Golden Corral, died at hospital

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a 58-year-old man accused of killing his girlfriend by lighting her on fire inside a Golden Corral.

Carol Renee Demmons, 56, who worked at the restaurant, was doused with lighter fluid by Darryl Tyrone Whipple, who then ignited her with a lighter as she ran away, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Demmons suffered burns on 62 percent of her body in the Oct. 12 attack and later died at the UF Health Shands Hospital Burn Unit in Gainesville.

After Demmons' death, Whipple was indicted on a first-degree murder charge by a Duval County grand jury. He is also charged with burglary with assault or battery.

He pleaded not guilty to those charges Tuesday in court, and the state filed notice that it intends to seek the death penalty. In the state's motion, prosecutors said the murder was committed in a cold and calculated manner without any moral or legal justification.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that death sentences now have to be by 12-0 jury recommendations. The state attorney general’s office said it will appeal that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

"Certainly I expect that the case will be at a standstill to the point that definitely you will have a discovery process, but no one will want to go to trial or actually pick a jury until there is a clear decision from the Florida Supreme Court as to how we will proceed," said attorney Rhonda Peoples-Waters, who is not connected to the case.

Whipple will next be in court Jan. 5.

Demmons' family was in court Tuesday, but declined to comment on the case.

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