Testimony concludes in sentencing phase of Brevard buried alive trial

Jurors expected to deliberate death penalty for man

VIERA, Fla. – A jury is expected to begin deliberating Tuesday in the sentencing phase in the case of a former beauty queen from the Bahamas buried alive in Brevard County.

Ten years after the murder, prosecutors say death is the only appropriate action against now twice-convicted killer Vahtiece Kirkman.

Kirkman declined to take the stand Monday, at times appearing teary-eyed as prosecutors made a final pitch that he does not deserve to live.

"Vahtiece Kirkman should be sentenced to death.  Life without parole in this case is not enough," said prosecuting attorney Greg Konieczka.

Kirkman was convicted unanimously Friday of burying alive 22-year-old Darice Knowles.

Attorneys Monday revisited graphic, chilling details of Knowles being buried alive in the woods, her grave filled with cement.

"She was alive in that grave, breathing," said Konieczka.  "The last thing that she saw on Earth was Mr. Pratt and Mr. Kirkman throwing her in that grave and having dirt packed down on her face."

The county medical examiner later described the suffering Knowles would have went through being buried alive.
Dr. Sajid Qaiser said she suffocated while trying to free her tied-up hands and legs.

"This person was in a struggle to try and come out or escape from this situation," said Dr. Qaiser.

Kirkman's old partner selling drugs, Christopher Pratt, testified last week that he actually buried Knowles, but only to avoid being killed with her, as Kirkman threatened.

Pratt took a plea deal in 2010 and got ten years for his involvement in the murder.

He says Kirkman plotted to kill Knowles because she went on a date with a Cocoa police officer while the gang was trying to lay low related to the murder of Willie Parker.

In contrast, the lone witness from the defense, Kirkman's "godsister", testified calling Kirkman a "perfect brother."

"It's been hard for us with him being away. We can't deal with him on death row," said Risha Ford, making an emotional plea to the jury.

Jurors must now recommend to the judge life or death.

New state law requires 10 out of 12 jurors must decide to recommend the death penalty, in order to forward the recommendation to the judge.

A sentence is expected as early as Tuesday when jurors begin deliberating.

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