BROOKSVILLE A month after a jury found Stanley Elias Eckard, 24, guilty of the second-degree murder of his brother, Judge Anthony Tatti sentenced him to 50 years in prison for the crime.
Before sentencing, Eckard’s parents stood together at the podium and read their respective statements. Samuel Eckard pointed out inconsistencies and missed opportunities by his son’s lawyer, Alan Fanter, including not asking a former medical examiner his opinion on the autopsy, and Prosecutor Pete Magrino’s “ridiculing” statement that Donna Eckard was an “unfit mother” for allowing a marijuana plant in her son’s room.
Eckard said he believed his son gave six different accounts of the “accident” that resulted in Sean Eckard’s death because he was in a state of shock, and deeply confused.
The defendant’s father also said this was a unique case in the state with the parents being kin to both the victim and the perpetrator.
“As I understand it, the nature of this trial has not been experienced before in a court of law in Florida, where some of the victims and witnesses are also defendants of what is charged as a homicide,” Samuel Eckard said. (Later, Magrino said he had the unfortunate responsibility of trying multiple cases where one sibling had murdered another in a different jurisdiction.)
Both Samuel and Donna Eckard said they believed Sean Eckard was the “aggressor” in the fight between their sons due to a brain injury. They asked Tatti to give their son a new trial, or to reduce the punishment to excusable manslaughter and the illegal disposal of human remains.
“My heart breaks every moment of every day for the loss of my youngest son, Sean Paul,” Donna Eckard said through choked back tears. “And likewise my heart breaks for my eldest son Stanley Elias for the accidental death of his brother.”
Eckard, who did not take the stand in his own defense during his trial, gave a brief but emotional apology.
“I would like to apologize to the court, my family, anyone involved in the situation,” Eckard said. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Eckard’s attorney asked Tatti to show compassion and sentence Eckard to a shorter sentence and a long period of supervision. Fanter said a long sentence would only “punish” Eckard’s parents further, adding he didn’t think his client would ever commit a crime again.
Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said Eckard was a “sociopath” and recommended he receive life in prison. Magrino said he sympathized with Sam and Donna Eckard, but said they didn’t witness Sean Eckard’s murder, and were attempting to “rationalize it was an accident.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Eckard, no parent should have to endure what you have endured,” Tatti said. “And I don’t think any rational person could expect you to look at this situation rationally.”
“But this is not just a crime that involves your family,” Tatti continued. “Our society recognizes that murder is the highest crime.”
After Tatti sentenced Eckard to 50 years in prison, his parents held each other, cried and repeated “50 years” in disbelief.
“No … this isn’t right,” Samuel Eckard moaned. “This isn’t right.