Man convicted of murdering Jacksonville firefighter

Jury also finds 33-year-old guilty of attempted murder of stepfather

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville Beach man who shot and killed a Jacksonville firefighter and tried to shoot his own stepfather in February 2011 was convicted Friday of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder.

A jury took about an hour to return the guilty verdicts for 33-year-old Charles Pearce, who killed 42-year-old Mike McCue (pictured below) and shot at Pearce's stepfather, Michael Otis, in Jacksonville Beach but missed.

A sentencing hearing for Pearce is set for June 2.

During closing arguments Friday morning, prosecutor John Guy said McCue spent his last day on Earth working on the yard with his girlfriend. He said that was turned into "a universal nightmare by a man with evil in his heart and a loaded gun."

Prosecutors said while Pearce was delusional, he knew right from wrong.

"He did not kill because he had to. He did it seeking revenge," prosecutor Janeen Kirch said.

The defense, however, said Pearce didn't know what he was doing.

"There are two Charles Pearces: one that's hard working, kind and helpful to others," defense attorney Michael Bateh said. "The other Charles Pearce was paranoid, obsessive, delusional and accusatory."

Defense attorneys told the jury that a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity would not mean he would be released from prison.

After the guilty verdict was read, the McCue family that packed the courtroom cried and exchanged hugs.

"Mike was a special person and he'll be remembered as a hero," said Kelly McCue, Mike's sister.

"Is this a form of justice for mike? You know, I'm his twin, it'll never be justice for me. I see his face in the mirror every day," Mitch McCue said. "We were together since inception to the day he died."

They said while McCue was a former firefighter, at the time he was killed, he was training soldiers how to detonate bombs and was supposed to be going to Afghanistan that weekend to do so. They said he got in late from out of state and decided to go home to rest and was killed 12 hours later.

McCue's family said thousands of people attended his funeral, which was televised in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the trial, 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, who said Pearce was sane at the time of the shooting.

Pearce's family was in the courtroom Friday for the first time during the trial but did not stay for the verdict.

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