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Death penalty trial begins for man accused of burying woman alive

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in a murder trial in Brevard County.

Detectives say the murder happened in March 2006 in the woods off State Road 524 in Cocoa.

The trial began Monday and Tuesday was the second day of testimony.

For the first time, a jury heard from the prosecution's star witness, Christopher Pratt.

He says his old partner selling drugs, Vahtiece Kirkman of Cocoa, ordered him to kill 22-year-old Bahamian beauty queen Darice Knowles, or die along with her.

"He gave me this ultimatum- it's either her or both of us," Pratt said.

Pratt and Kirkman are both already doing time for another murder.

In regards to this case, Pratt took a plea deal in 2010 to testify against Kirkman.

He told a jury Tuesday, Kirkman wanted Knowles killed for hanging out with a Cocoa cop - worried she would give that officer information about his involvement in another killing.

Pratt says he defended Knowles but Kirkman didn't change his mind.

"You could see she was terrified," Pratt testified.  "He told me to start digging."

He continued that Kirkman ordered him to tie up Knowles by her hands and legs, put her in a hole and then cover her with cement and dirt, killing her.

Pratt was asked by the prosecuting attorney if before leaving the site if he noticed any part of Knowles body sticking out of the ground.

He replied, "Yes, her foot, the toes."

He continued that he covered the remaining exposed body parts with cement and Kirkman ordered him to do so.

Pratt was also asked questions by the defense. 

A defense attorney tried to leave an impression that Pratt, not Kirkman, killed Knowles when he buried her alive.

"You're the one who dumped the concrete on Darice," Pratt was asked.

"Yes, sir," he answered.

After Pratt's testimony Tuesday, the former Cocoa police officer involved in the case took the stand, revealing intimate details about a date he went on with Knowles.

Jovonnie Freeman testified that he slept with Knowles the night before she died.

Surveillance video the next day was shown in the prosecution's attempt to show Kirkman leaving a Home Depot on Merrit Island with the alleged murder weapons - duct tape, cement, and a shovel.

The prosecution has 11 witnesses left to call on. The trial is expected to last two weeks.


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