PENSACOLA, Fla. – A man accused of killing a former newspaper reporter and stealing his valuable collection of gaming cards kept the body in a container surrounded by air freshener and potpourri for more than a week before burying the container in concrete, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Prosecutor Bridgette Jensen showed jurors an identical plastic container during opening statements in the first-degree murder trial of William Joseph Cormier III.
Prosecutors allege Cormier beat Sean Dugas to death and stole Dugas' collection of cards for the role playing game "Magic: The Gathering," which he later sold in Atlanta for thousands of dollars. Experts have valued the cards at up to $100,000. Jensen said Dugas' skull was bludgeoned to the point that forensic experts had to reconstruct it to conduct their investigation.
Cormier's defense attorney urged jurors to keep open minds.
"It is a horrific and tragic crime, there is no getting around that. Your duty is not to solve this crime, your duty is to ensure that Mr. Cormier's rights are guarded and that you make the state prove the case beyond every reasonable doubt," attorney Richard Currey said in his brief opening statement.
Cormier's twin brother has pleaded no contest to charges of helping him transport Dugas' body from Pensacola to Georgia, bury Dugas' body and encase it in concrete in the backyard of their father's home.
Later Tuesday, friends and family members testified that they last heard from Dugas on Aug. 27, 2012. Dugas' body was unearthed in Widner, Ga., on Oct. 8, 2012.
Currey asked witnesses in the comic book and playing card businesses if they could tell the Cormier brothers apart. Witnesses said the identical twin brothers were difficult to distinguish from each other.
One man who played the card game with both Dugas and the Cormier brothers for years said he could tell the brothers apart only when he was close to them and when they were talking. Gaming experts testified that cards for "Magic: The Gathering" can sell for thousands of dollars and were especially valuable if signed by the artist who designed the game. Players often meet in comic book stores and play the game for hours, they said.
Dugas worked for the Pensacola News Journal from 2005 to 2010. He did web videos and occasional crime reporting. Friends and family said Tuesday that Dugas was a collector of many things, including spoons and coins.
Cormier showed no emotion Tuesday morning as he listened to the lawyer's statements and witness testimony.