Florida brothers blame father's murder on family friend
(Court TV) -- Two babyfaced brothers charged with murdering their father recanted their confession Tuesday in a Florida courtroom and testified against a family friend also on trial for the killing.
Alex King, 13, and Derek King, 14, testified with immunity Tuesday in the murder trial of Ricky Chavis, 40. The boys will be tried separately for murder following Chavis' trial, but their testimony cannot be used against them. Chavis is also accused of sexually molesting Alex.
The boys initially told investigators that Alex hatched the idea to kill their father so that they could move in with Chavis. They claimed Derek bashed Terry Lee King in the head with a bat as he slept and then the boys set the house ablaze to destroy evidence.
But during their testimony on Tuesday in a Pensacola, Florida, courtroom, the boys both testified that neither took part in the brutal killing. Instead, they claimed to have concocted the original story to protect Chavis.
With his eyes cast downward, Alex said that he and Chavis had an ongoing sexual relationship before his father's death and that he wanted to take Chavis up on his offer to live with him.
"I was in love with Rick," testified Alex, whose voice was so quiet it was often inaudible. "He let me play video games and stuff. It was fun living at his house."
In sharp contrast to the "101 Dalmatians" bedspread and "Lion King" pillow Alex mentioned during his testimony, both boys face mandatory life sentences if convicted of murder since they are charged as adults. Chavis also faces a life sentence if convicted.
Derek King corroborated his brother's claim that they called Chavis to pick them up at their father's Pensacola home on November 25, 2001. Alex King told Chavis -- and later police -- that Terry King had grabbed him by the wrist and thrown him across the room.
It was only their latest runaway attempt. Derek had been living with his father and brother for just seven weeks after spending the previous six years in foster care.
When Chavis arrived at the house that night, "he told me to go out the back door. He said to get into his car and that he'd catch up to us in a minute," Derek testified during questioning by prosecutor David Rimmer. "He said to go hide in the trunk of his car."
According to Tuesday's testimony, Chavis emerged from the house and broke the news to them that their father was dead.
"He said there had been a fight, said there had been an accident. He said that my dad was dead and then he said he had done it for us and he said that my dad would have killed us before he let us live with him," Alex testified.
Terry King's bludgeoned body was found lying in a recliner. The fire set after the killing had not yet spread to the living room when fire personnel arrived.
Both boys -- who previously said that they killed their father while he slept in the chair -- testified Tuesday that Chavis asked them to confess to the crime.
Unlike his younger brother, who stared downward and spoke barely above a whisper, Derek looked directly at the lawyers during their questioning. He spoke clearly, even raising his voice in defiance at times during cross-examination by defense lawyer Mike Rollo.
"He said that we have to take the blame for him because he promised his mom right before she died that he would never get locked up again," Derek testified.
Chavis had pleaded no contest to molesting two teenage boys in 1984 and received a six-month jail sentence. His rap sheet also includes burglary.
Like their statements to police given days after the murder, the brothers' second version of events were similar, though dotted with inconsistencies.
Alex, for example, said that after emerging from the house, Chavis told them he had used a bat on their father. Derek, however, testified that Chavis never mentioned what weapon was used.
Under cross-examination, Rollo asked Alex why his shoes tested positive for paint thinner, an accelerant. The 13-year-old replied that it was from doing "housework."
The defense also tried to questions the young witnesses' credibility, pointing out Derek's history of lying and stealing, charges that he assaulted a prison guard and his former foster family's accusations that he set a fire while living with them.
"I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in prison for somebody else's act," Derek King said on the stand to explain the change in his story.
The jury also heard Alex detail his relationship with Chavis, a 40-year-old auto mechanic and friend of Terry King.
Alex said on the stand that Chavis convinced him he was a homosexual and that his father was emotionally abusing him.
"I really didn't notice any of it 'til Rick brought it up," he said, later admitting that he lied about his father throwing him across a room.
Chavis, an admitted homosexual, has denied having any sexual relationship with Alex King. Love letters exchanged between the two are being used as evidence in the trial, and Chavis is accused of trying to send messages to Alex in prison. Chavis is set to stand trial in October for sexually abusing Alex.
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