According to court documents Edward James would go to the home of a family he was staying with and would sexually assault and murder eight year old Toni Neuner before stabbing to death her Grandmother Betty Dick
Edward James would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Edward James Photos
Edward James Now
DC Number: 969121
Name: JAMES, EDWARD T
Birth Date: 08/04/1961
Initial Receipt Date: 08/18/1995
Current Facility: UNION C.I.
Current Custody: MAXIMUM
Current Release Date: DEATH SENTENCE
Edward James Case
The record reflects that on the evening of Sunday, September 19, 1993, Edward James attended a party at Todd Van Fossen’s house. James rented a room from one of the victims in this case, Betty Dick, and lived about two blocks away from the Van Fossens. He arrived at 6 p.m. and stayed until approximately 10:30 p.m. Todd’s girlfriend, Tina, noticed that James seemed intoxicated by the end of the evening and asked him if he wanted to spend the night, but James declined. Edward James drank between six and twenty-four cans of beer during the party, as well as some “shotguns”-three beers drunk through a funnel in a very short period of time. Shortly after leaving the party James ran into Jere Pearson who lived nearby and was returning from the Handy Way convenience store. Jere Pearson was interviewed by the assistant state attorney and the assistant public defender before trial. An audiotape of the interview was played for the jury during the trial.1
Pearson stated that when the two met, Edward James was on his way to visit Tim Dick, the victim’s son, and his girlfriend, Nichole, who also lived nearby. They stopped and talked for about ten minutes and Pearson watched James ingest about ten “hits” of LSD on paper. James told Pearson he had been drinking at Todd Van Fossen’s party, but he appeared sober to Pearson.
After briefly visiting Tim Dick and Nichole where he drank some gin, Edward James returned to his room at Betty Dick’s house. When he entered the house, James noticed that Betty Dick’s four grandchildren were asleep in the living room.2 One of the children, Wendi, awoke briefly when James arrived. She observed that he was laughing and appeared drunk. Edward James went to the kitchen, made himself a sandwich and retired to his room. Eventually, he returned to the living room where he grabbed Betty Dick’s eight-year-old granddaughter, Toni Neuner, by the neck and strangled her, hearing the bones pop in her neck. Believing Toni was dead, he removed her clothes and had vaginal and anal intercourse with her in his room. Toni never screamed or resisted. After raping Toni, he threw her behind his bed.
Edward James then went to Betty Dick’s bedroom where he intended to have sexual intercourse with her. He hit Betty in the back of the head with a pewter candlestick. She woke up and started screaming, “Why, Eddie, why?” Betty’s screaming brought Wendi Neuner to the doorway of her grandmother’s bedroom where she saw James stabbing Betty with a small knife. When James saw Wendi he grabbed her, tied her up, and placed her in the bathroom. Thinking that Betty was not dead, James went to the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife and returned to Betty’s room and stabbed her in the back. James removed Betty Dick’s pajama bottoms, but did not sexually batter her.
Covered with blood, Edward James took a shower in the bathroom where Wendi remained tied up and then threw together some clothes and belongings. He returned to Betty’s room and took her purse and jewelry bag before driving away in her car. James drove across the country, stopping periodically to sell jewelry for money. He finally was arrested on October 6, 1993, in Bakersfield, California, and gave two videotaped confessions to police there. A videotape containing the relevant portions of James’ statements was played for the jury.
Dr. Shashi Gore, the chief medical examiner for Seminole County, testified that he performed autopsies on Betty Dick and Toni Neuner. Betty Dick suffered twenty-one stab wounds to the back with the knife still embedded. The wounds damaged both lungs, the liver, and the diaphragm and fractured several ribs. Dick also suffered major stab wounds to the left side of the neck, below the left eye, and on the left ear. A knife blade was also discovered in Dick’s hair. Dick died of massive bleeding and shock from the multiple stab wounds to her chest and back. Dr. Gore opined that she died within a few minutes of her assailant’s attack.
Toni Neuner suffered contusions to her lips and hemorrhaging in her eyes caused by lack of oxygen from strangulation. Gore opined that the extensive force necessary to create the contusions on her neck indicated that a ligature had been used. Dr. Gore also found contusions around the anal and vaginal orifices. The roof of the vaginal wall was completely torn. Although the substantial amount of blood pooled in the pelvic cavity indicated that Toni Neuner was alive at the time she was sexually assaulted, Dr. Gore could not state that she was conscious when she was raped. Toni Neuner died of asphyxiation due to strangulation.
Dr. E. Michael Gutman, a psychiatrist, testified as a mental health expert witness on James’ behalf. He conducted neuropsychological tests on James in August of 1994. Dr. Gutman learned that James’ father and grandfather had been alcoholics and James used crack cocaine, LSD, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and pills. In Dr. Gutman’s opinion, James suffers from alcohol dependence and has an addictive craving for alcohol which he is unable to break. James has above average intelligence and his performance IQ is in the superior range.
Edward James told Dr. Gutman that on the day of the offense, he had been drinking, had used crack cocaine and cannabis, and had taken some pills. He could not remember if he had taken LSD in the hours preceding the offense. Dr. Gutman determined that James has a passive aggressive or an addictive personality. In his opinion, James suffers from poly-substance dependence and abuse, as well as severe dysthymia, a chronic depressive disorder. Edward James also has unresolved conflicts associated with being abandoned by his father.
Dr. Daniel E. Buffington, a clinical pharmacologist at the University of South Florida, testified for the defense about the effects of alcohol and drug addictions. He explained that if a person like James has an underlying psychological problem, LSD ingestion will most likely unmask it and allow it to come to the surface. The acute phase of affectation due to LSD ingestion is two to twelve hours after ingestion. Possible reactions to LSD include, among others: a psychotic adverse reaction which is accompanied by hallucinations; a psycho-dynamic/psychedelic experience which results in a slow emergence of the subconscious idea or psychological condition; and a cognitive psychedelic reaction which overcomes an individual’s ability to control himself.
Dr. Buffington opined that if James had drunk between twenty and thirty cans of beer between the hours of 6 and 11:30 p.m., he most likely had a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit. If James ingested ten “hits” of LSD, about 200 micrograms at a minimum-which is a heavy dose-when considered in conjunction with the alcohol use, the peak effect of the LSD ingestion would have occurred between 12:30 a.m. and 1 a.m. The description of the crimes is consistent with the effects that the LSD and alcohol would have had on James. Dr. Buffington explained that such a large dose of LSD could have caused a physical or mental breakdown and a sudden release of aggressive action in someone like James, who suffers from a passive aggressive personality.
Dr. Buffington concluded that Edward James was most probably under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance due to his psychotic reaction and psychodynamic/psychedelic reaction to LSD. James further suffered from a decreased ability to control his behavioral pattern.
Betty and John Hoffpauir testified that they had known Edward James for years. Once James made Betty Hoffpauir’s grandson some golf clubs just out of kindness. James worked off and on with John Hoffpauir in his lawn business and would never take any money for helping him.
Betty Lee, who also testified on Edward James’ behalf, knew James through her daughter, who had lived next door to Betty Dick. When Betty Lee would visit her daughter, she often would see James playing with Toni and Wendi Neuner out in the front yard. James was also always willing to help Betty Lee’s daughter whenever she called on him.
Anthony Mancuso is a volunteer with the Seminole County Correctional Facility and counsels inmates on religious matters. He testified that James is well-liked by the jail personnel as being a non-trouble maker. Once when Mancuso was ill, James wrote him a letter that Mancuso believes reflects James’ spiritual growth while in custody. Mancuso explained that he has seen an incredible change in James since he entered the facility.
Edward James also testified on his own behalf at the penalty phase. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1961. At the age of ten, he learned that his biological father had left him when he was just a baby. He eventually went to live with his biological father in Indianapolis when he was fourteen. However, James’ father turned out to be a drug dealer and introduced James to marijuana. Edward James moved with his father to Massachusetts, but his father returned to Indianapolis without James two weeks after the move. James has never heard from his father since that time. James subsequently moved to Florida with his mother after she separated from her second husband. He started experimenting with drugs, including marijuana and PCP, and eventually dropped out of school. He did get his GED, however, and entered the army at age seventeen. He started using more drugs in the army and received a general discharge under honorable conditions. James then spent eighteen months hitchhiking around the country and ultimately had a son who was born in March of 1983. James went to San Francisco where he graduated from a computer learning center. One day, James received a phone call from his son’s mother who threatened to kill his son unless James would take him. James returned to Florida and took custody of his son, Jesse. However, James soon realized he was not prepared to raise his son, and his drinking and drug usage increased. His drug abuse caused his relationship with his girlfriend to break up and he distanced himself from his son. From James’ birthday on August 4, 1993, until the day of the offense on September 20, 1993, James was steadily intoxicated. James feels ashamed for what he did, especially because he loved Betty and her grandchildren and felt that they were like his own family. James explained that he does not believe his drug abuse excuses his conduct, but it does help to explain it. On the other hand, James also testified that he had never had an adverse reaction when he took LSD and always had good experiences. In addition, he did not remember taking LSD prior to the murders.
Following deliberations, the jury returned advisory penalty recommendations of death for each of the murder convictions. At the subsequent sentencing hearing held on August 18, 1995, the trial court confirmed the previous adjudications of guilt and sentenced James to life in prison with a mandatory minimum of twenty-five years before parole eligibility on each of the capital sexual battery convictions to run concurrent with each other. Additionally, James was sentenced to life in prison on the kidnapping charge, fifteen years on each count of the aggravated child abuse and attempted sexual battery, and five years on each count of grand theft-all to run concurrent with each other, but consecutive to the sentences on the capital sexual batteries.