VIERA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35)
The Brevard County man accused of burying a woman alive is headed to death row.
The life or death hearing for 37-year-old Vahtiece Kirkman began with Brevard County Judge Jeffrey Mahl recounting the 2006 murder of 22-year-old Darice Knowles, a Bahamian beauty queen. Kirkman, a violent drug dealer at the time, believed she was going to tell police about his involvement in a previous murder.
Knowles tried to convince Kirkman she wasn't talking about him when she went on date with a Cocoa police officer for fun, but Kirkman was undeterred.
Jurors recommended the death penalty for Kirkman earlier this month. The panel voted 10-2 for Kirkman's execution. He was convicted last week of first-degree murder and kidnapping for his involvement in the death of Knowles.
Authorities say the remains of Knowles were found in a Cocoa wooded area in 2010, nearly four years after she was reported missing by her family. Prosecutors say Kirkman buried the woman alive under a mix of concrete and dirt, because he was afraid she was talking with police about his connections to another homicide.
Kirkman's defense attorneys pointed the finger at Kirkman's old drug dealing partner, Christopher Pratt, who actually carried out the entire act of tying Knowles up, digging her grave in a remote area off State Road 524, and then burying her alive in dirt and concrete. But the judge ruled it was Kirkman who called the shots, and he did so with an intent to torture her.
"The terror she must have felt, and buried alive trying to breath and escape, is unconscionable," said Judge Mahl.
During his roughly 45-minute death sentence hearing, Kirkman appeared mostly indifferent. At times, he would yawn. Other times, he let his eyes wander around the room. He chose not to speak either and stared straight ahead as the judge sentenced him to death.