By Bryant Thigpen
Courtesy of The Suwannee Democrat
A Live Oak man walked out of a Suwannee County courtroom Thursday evening a free man after being on trial for two counts of capital first degree murder.
It took a jury nearly seven hours to render a verdict in the case of State of Florida versus Marcus Nathaniel Cole. The 12 member panel found Cole not guilty on both counts. Following the reading of the verdict, family members of the two brothers that were shot and killed by Cole were emotionally vocal to both jury and Cole.
Cole, 41, was hosting a party and cookout at his home on 225th Road on Jan. 26, 2013. At approximately 10 p.m., six of the partygoers got into a fight, according to reports from the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office.
Shortly after the fight had broken up, Cole went into his home and retrieved a 30.06 rifle and shot and killed Mike Williams, 46, and his brother, Abram Williams, 41.
Mike and Abram Williams were the sons of Kenny Williams, who grew up in Lee. The brothers were also kin to a host of other relatives in the Madison County community.
Third Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Craig Jacobsen and John Weed represented the state of Florida. Attorneys John Hendrick, David Valin and Jonathan Austin of the Third Judicial Circuit Public Defenders Office, represented Marcus Cole.
Day 1 – March 25
Day one began with opening statements from Jacobsen and Hendrick.
The state then called Sharmee “Greer” Williams, who was married to Abe Williams at the time of the shooting, as their first witness.
According to Sharmee Williams, Karen Thompson, who was in charge of the cooking for the party, invited Sharmee and her husband to come over, and said it was OK for friend, David Fillyaw and Abe’s brother, Michael Williams, who was with them, to come along.
On the stand, Sharmee testified everyone in the vehicle had been at a previous party where alcoholic beverages were involved, and stated she had roughly eight to nine beers at that party.
Sharmee stated she met Marcus Cole through Karen at a previous cookout.
Her recollection of the night was they arrived at the Cole residence around 9:30-10 p.m. She observed people drinking upon their arrival.
Sharmee said a fight broke out and she did not know why, but she observed Marcus and David fighting.
She said she then told her husband, Abe Williams, “Let’s get out of here.”
She said when she got into a truck, Abe was there and Mike was following behind. She said they were going to leave when Mike Williams got into the truck. Abe Williams was sitting in the driver’s seat and Sharmee was in the passenger seat.
She testified she watched her brother-in-law Mike Williams fall to the ground.
While sitting in the truck, Abe looked over at her and reportedly said, “What the (censored),” and that’s when she said Abe Williams was shot in the head by Marcus.
Abe was transported to a Gainesville hospital, but she did not get to ride with him in the ambulance. Abe later died from his injuries.
The state called William Cimiotta as their second witness, who was reportedly living at the Cole residence at the time of the shooting along with his wife, Kayla. Marcus was his step-father at that time.
William Cimiotta testified to being at the party for the entire evening and said there was beer, vodka and marijuana at the party. He said he and Kayla had not been drinking.
William Cimiotta said those that arrived at the party had appeared to have been drinking. William Cimiotta said Mike Williams said some inappropriate things to his mother which caused things to escalate. A fight broke out, and he said Marcus later appeared to have grease on him.
William Cimiotta reportedly told Marcus to go inside and clean off and he did so. While Marcus was inside the mobile home, William Cimiotta said he attempted to break up the fight.
He testified the fight soon ended. Karen was attending to Josh White who had been cut, and Marcus was still in the home at that time. He said three people were getting in their vehicle and were getting ready to leave. Abe and Sharmee were in the vehicle and Mike was walking toward the vehicle.
He said he then saw Marcus with the rifle and tried snatching the gun away from him but was not successful. William Cimiotta said he told him, “We can do this another way.”
William Cimiotta recalled Marcus then saying a few words to him before pulling the trigger.
William Cimiotta said Marcus then went back in the front door after he shot the two victims. He testified he didn’t feel threatened by those who were leaving.
Jacobsen asked William Cimiotta if the Williams were leaving quietly, he replied, “Yes, sir.”
The state called their third witness, Stacy Cole, ex-wife of Marcus Cole, and mother of William Cimiotta.
At the time of the shooting, Stacy said she was working at the Econo Lodge at night as an auditor.
Stacy said Mike Williams had made inappropriate comments to her. Marcus then reportedly told her to go inside the mobile home. She later saw Marcus inside the home and he told her to call 911 when he had grease splashed on his face. She later called 911 again, this time not instructed by Marcus.
Stacy said Sharmee was sitting inside a maroon truck when she proceeded to go behind it to get the license plate number. She said at that time, Mike Williams had already been shot.
She testified Marcus was standing on the second step of the home’s entrance steps when the second bullet was fired.
Two 911 calls that were made were then played for the jury to hear.
“They were attempting to leave,” Stacy said.
Stacy said she uncovered the weapon laying on the couch when she went searching for it.
The state then called their fourth witness, Kayla Cimiotta. At the time of the incident and trial, Cimiotta was married to William Cimiotta.
Kayla said she was inside the mobile home with William Cimiotta and Stacy when they heard a big bang. They went outside and discovered Marcus had grease on him and there was fighting.
Kayla said William Cimiotta was pulling everybody off when Joshua White told Karen Thompson he got stabbed. She said David Fillyaw was the only person she saw with a knife. David was later arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Kayla said she had asked the guests to leave and they were leaving in a “calmly way.” She then said William Cimiotta tried to stop him by standing in front of him trying to get the gun away.
The state then called Sgt. Jake Greene of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office. Greene was the first responder on the scene.
Greene said he was approached by three individuals who informed him Marcus was the man who shot the victims. Greene then approached Marcus and checked on injured individuals.
Greene was on the scene when crime scene analysts from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrived.
The state then called Cpl. Brian Barrs of the SCSO.
Barrs testified when he arrived on the scene, Marcus was standing by a deputy’s car. When he saw a substance dripping from Marcus, he asked an EMT personnel what the liquid was. Barrs said Marcus, who was standing close by, spontaneously said, “They threw grease on me. I had to shoot them.”
Barrs said Marcus was never asked anything directly regarding the substance.
The state then called their seventh witness, Investigator Jeff Cameron of the SCSO. Cameron also testified on the second day of trial.
Cameron said when he arrived on the scene, he had no communication with Marcus since he was in the back of a patrol car.
Later at the Suwannee County Jail during the booking process, Cameron said he read Marcus his Miranda Rights, which he waived, but said he wasn’t talking until he talked with an attorney.
However, Cameron said Marcus was making spontaneous statements such as, “They threw grease on me. I had to shoot.”
Cameron also testified that he did not see blisters or red marks on Marcus at the time of booking that he could have sustained from hot grease and did not see any evidence that Marcus was in pain.
He said Marcus was not admitted to the hospital or treated for injuries the night of the shooting.
Day 2 – March 26
On the second day of trial, the state called their final witness, Stacy Simmons, medical examiner of Jacksonville.
Simmons performed the autopsies on Abe and Mike Williams, and said autopsies are generally performed when there is a “traumatic death or drug overdose.”
Following her examinations, Simmons determined and testified to the cause of death. Simmons said Abe Williams died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head and Mike Williams died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Simmons said the manner of death for both individuals was determined to be a homicide, which she defined as a “killing of one person by another person.”
The state then rested.
Defense calls their witnesses
The defense then called Karen Thompson to the stand. Karen, who was reportedly dating Joshua White at that time, said she has known Marcus for approximately five years.
Karen said she was cooking at the party when the guests arrived at the Cole residence. She said she knew Abe and Sharmee Williams, who she invited, but she didn’t know Mike Williams or David Fillyaw prior to that day.
Karen said she went inside and when she came back out, there was fighting going on.
When Marcus passed by her, Karen testified he said, “They burnt me. They threw grease on me.”
Karen said the fight continued when Cole went inside. She cared for Joshua White after he sustained an injury.
“I thought Josh was going to die,” Karen said. “The scene was very chaotic.”
Karen testified she heard a gunshot, but did not know who was shooting. She said she then saw Marcus holding a gun.
The defense then called Joshua White.
Joshua testified he was fearful of his life after being cut on his upper back while helping Marcus, who he said was laying on the ground getting beaten.
“I was down on the bottom of the pile. When I managed to get out, I felt a burning sensation,” Joshua said. “My fingers actually went into my neck.”
At that point, White said the guests were still fighting.
“It looked like they had no will of stopping,” he said.
Marcus Cole takes the stand
The defense then called Marcus Cole to the stand as their final witness.
Marcus was living at the residence on 225th Road with his wife Stacy; her son, William Cimiotta, and his wife, Kayla.
Marcus said he and Stacy had been married two years prior to the event.
Marcus said the occasion of the family get-together was to eat meat from a hog killed the previous day. He said Josh and Karen had a 400 pound boar hog that had escaped the pin.
“It was night time, it was raining. They called me up because they don’t own a gun, to come and shoot it. So, I got a gun, a 30-06 … I shot it,” Marcus said.
Marcus said they packed the meat on ice and then had it processed the next day. Marcus said as a payment, Karen brought some ribs and a shoulder over and said they wanted to have a cookout.
“I said we could cook it at my house. We agreed to have some shrimp and oysters and fried dill pickles,” Marcus said.
Marcus said the 30-06 gun previously belonged to his dad who passed away, and was given to him by his step-mom.
Marcus recalled when he got off work on Jan. 26, the day of the party, he stopped by a convenience store and got a 12 pack of beer and a bag of ice and went home. Later, folks who he described as “close friends” arrived around 6 p.m. and began cooking. Marcus said the radio was loud and everyone was “happy.”
Around 10 p.m., Abe and Sharmee Williams arrived at the party along with Mike Williams and David Fillyaw, who he said was acting somewhat aggressive.
“They all had a beer in their hand,” Marcus said.
Later, Marcus said they were making rude comments to his wife and to Karen. That’s when Marcus said he asked the ladies to go into the home. Marcus said when he told Abe and his company to leave, they just laughed. Marcus testified he asked them to leave on four different occasions.
“(Abe) said he wasn’t going anywhere, so I went into the house and told my wife to call 911,” Marcus said. “They were just trying to make us fight. They should have left when I asked them.”
Marcus said they attacked him when he made it clear he didn’t want them at his home anymore.
When punches were exchanged, Marcus said Abe Williams kicked him in the knees to make him fall to the ground. He said they aggressively continued to punch and kick him while he was down on the ground.
Marcus testified that Mike Williams picked up a pot full of hot grease which had been used for cooking and threw it at him, burning his upper body.
“I thought I was going to be blind and not have a face,” Marcus said. “I started screaming and saying I couldn’t see.”
Marcus said he felt like it was an attempt to kill him.
Later, he witnessed Joshua White, his best friend, he said, bleeding from a cut which he believed to be life threatening.
“I thought he was going to bleed to death,” Marcus said. “I was horrified.”
Marcus continued, “Each fight was getting more and more aggressive.”
“I felt like I had to go get my gun to protect my loved ones. They almost killed me and Josh is bleeding to death,” Marcus said.
When he returned outside from getting the firearm, Marcus said he stood between the aggressors and his loved ones.
Marcus said he was unsure if Abe Williams had a weapon in the truck. He also said he was unsure if Mike Williams had a weapon on him, but stated he had not seen one during this incident. Marcus said Mike Williams was coming at him and he took action to protect himself.
“I did not have a choice,” Marcus said. “I’m still horrified. That’s a feeling you don’t want to feel. It hasn’t changed over the 14 months.”
Day 3 – March 27
Day three began with closing statements by Marcus Cole’s attorney and the state. The jury was then sent into deliberation at 2:20 p.m.
At approximately 9:15 p.m., the jury rendered a verdict of not guilty of two counts of capital first degree murder.