DAYTONA BEACH -- A grandmotherly woman sitting in court on Tuesday is either a stone cold killer who a prosecutor said beat a disabled man to death to cash in on an insurance policy she had taken out on him; or she is the "default" defendant who was arrested because investigators could not find the real killer, a defense attorney said.
Diane Reid, 57, of Daytona Beach, is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated neglect of an elderly disabled adult. Reid is accused of killing 49-year-old Pernell Robinson, who a prosecutor described as having the understanding of a child despite his nearly five-decades of life.
When not in court, Reid is being held at the Volusia County Branch Jail on $250,000 bail. Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano is presiding over the trial in front of a jury of six men and two women, including two alternates, at the S. James Foxman Justice Center.
When Robinson's brother went to prison and could not care for him, Robinson went to stay with Reid on 224 Taylor Road in Daytona Beach. Robinson had only been with Reid for about six weeks before he died.
Reid took out the Metlife life insurance policy on Robinson only days before she called 9-1-1 on July 15, 2017 to report that he was not breathing, Assistant State Attorney Tammy Jaques told jurors.
Paramedics found Robinson sprawled on the bathroom floor, his head propped up against a wall next to the door. His body had numerous bruises and he had suffered a fractured rib and a fractured forearm and internal bleeding, Jaques said. Robinson also had marks on his wrists and ankles that were consistent with ligatures being used to tie him, she said.
While Reid said Robinson had been missing for three days she did not call police, Jaques said. Investigators found a note with information about the Metlife insurance policy for Robinson with Reid as the beneficiary, Jaques said.
It was not the first time that Robinson had been badly beaten while staying with Reid. Robinson was living with Reid in December 2014 when he suffered a beating that sent him to a hospital for three months, Jaques said.
Reid sat between her two attorneys, Assistant Public Defenders John Selden and Danielle Rufai. Reid dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as the prosecutor played a recording of her 9-1-1 call in which she sounded like she is crying at times.
"I think he's dead, he's laying on the floor. ... Somebody did something to him!" Reid said in the 9-1-1 recording.
Selden told jurors that there was nothing sinister about Reid taking out a life insurance policy on Robinson. Reid had also taken out a life insurance policy on herself, Selden said.
And the first time Robinson was beaten while staying with Reid he did not tell police she had done anything to him. The Department of Children and Families investigated that incident in 2014, and Reid was not charged with anything, Selden said.
When Robinson vanished for three days in July 2017, Reid did not call police because Robinson had wandered away before and had returned without a problem. And when he returned injured, Reid initially tried to care for him, but she didn't realize the seriousness of the injuries, Selden said.
Reid was not arrested until five months later in December 2017, said Selden, saying she was the "default," since police had not found anyone else.
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