JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and shooting her sister in the head was among five men indicted Thursday on murder charges by a Duval County grand jury.
Chad Absher, 33, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon in connection with the Halloween 2017 shooting that killed Ashlee Rucker.
Absher appeared before a judge Friday morning on the upgraded charge. His arraignment was set for Feb. 14.
He had been set to go to trial Monday in the shooting death of Ashlee Rucker and the attempted murder of her sister, Lisa Rucker. But the State Attorney's Office filed a motion last week, before the grand jury indictment came down, asking for more time to analyze DNA evidence on the rifle that was recovered.
The judge granted that motion and moved the trial back to March 25.
With the first-degree murder indictment, prosecutors will now decide whether to seek the death penalty for Absher. If the State Attorney's Office files that notice, the trial likely will be postponed indefinitely.
Also indicted was Gerard Stewart, who’s suspected of stabbing his wife to death before stuffing her body in the trunk of his car. Stewart, 45, is charged with first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the June 2018 case. Court records suggest Stewart’s wife, Julie, had filed for divorce in the months leading up to her death.
Stewart appeared before a judge Friday morning on the upgraded charge. His arraignment was set for Feb. 14.
Perty Mathis is one of two men charged with murder in the February 2017 shooting death of 50-year-old Kyle Simpson. Authorities said Simpson, a veteran, was gunned down when he inadvertently interrupted a burglary at his Oceanway home. Mathis, 20, also faces armed burglary and burglary charges in the case.
Mathis appeared before a judge Friday morning on the upgraded charge. His arraignment was set for Feb. 14.
Jurors also indicted 37-year-old Brandon Michael Smith, who’s accused of murdering his girlfriend’s toddler. Alayna Williamson, 2, was hospitalized in March 2017 with severe head injuries but did not survive. An autopsy found she died of blunt force trauma and Smith was captured out of state. He’s charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse.
Marvin Williams, 47, was indicted in the January 2018 murder of his girlfriend, 61-year-old Cassandra Valentin. Police performing a welfare check at the couple’s Moncrief home found her stabbed to death. Court records show the couple had a troubled relationship, and relatives said they had an abusive past.