Markeith Loyd details relationship problems before shooting

Alternate juror excused for bias

ORLANDO, Fla. – Markeith Loyd spent hours on the stand Monday after the state rested its case.

Loyd, 44, is accused of shooting and killing 24-year-old Sade Dixon, a pregnant mother of two, and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton. He will stand trial next year in Clayton's death.

Loyd wore a white, long-sleeved, checked, button-down shirt, but no tie, during day three of testimony. His ankles were shackled, but they could not be seen by the jury from any angle, according to the judge. Loyd was not wearing an eye patch. He lost vision in his left eye during his arrest in January 2017.

The first of two murder trials for Markeith Loyd continues.

Loyd was given a tie before he took the stand.

His testimony included details about his relationship with Dixon, his belief that he often receives signs from God and his urge to start a family. At one point, he admitted that things got physical during a fight with Dixon about whether she lied about going to her cousin's house.

"So I grabbed her by her neck and I pushed her down," Loyd said.

He said problems in their relationship pertained to her eating meat, smoking marijuana and whether she was truthful. Ultimately, those issues ended their relationship days before the shooting.

[Click here to read more about Loyd's testimony]

Loyd took the stand around 2 p.m. and by 6:15 p.m., his testimony was finished. The state began cross-examination after 10-minute break. The cross-examination was cut short when a juror reported feeling ill.

An alternate juror was dismissed Monday evening after she said she overheard another juror talking to a deputy at the hotel about gun laws, specifically stand your ground, and she believed it impacted her ability to be unbiased. 

"I'm just saying I don't think I could be 100% impartial," the woman said.

Cross-examination will resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Earlier in the day after the state rested, the jury was released from the courtroom and the defense raised a motion in an effort to have the case dismissed. Judge Leticia Marques, however, denied the motion.

"I think the state has met the requirements, so at this time the (judgment for acquittal) is denied," Marques said.

The defense then called its first witness, Orange County Sheriff's Detective Brian Savelli, who was in the homicide unit in 2016 and was the lead investigator in the Dixon case.

Savelli, who's been with the Orange County Sheriff's Office since 2007, said he worked with a team to investigate Dixon's death.

He described getting information from Dixon's cellphone, including text messages to and from Loyd starting Dec. 10, 2016. 

Defense attorney Terry Lenamon asked Savelli if he recalled three screenshots taken by Dixon the day the shooting occurred.

"I don't recall that, no," Savelli said.

Savelli said he tried to get access to Loyd's phone records, but he never received them.

Lenamon then started asking Savelli about Loyd's niece, who was arrested in connection with the case before charges were dropped three weeks later.

The line of questioning appears to stem from the defense's opening statement that Loyd wanted to turn himself in to authorities but was upset that detectives and the media weren't saying anything about Sade Dixon having a gun.

Shane Overfield, homicide detective with the Orlando Police Department, was questioned next by the defense and was asked about the shooting of Clayton on Jan. 9, 2017.

Overfield said he found a projectile about a hundred yards from where the shooting occurred at the Walmart off John Young Parkway.

The next witness was Patrick McKenna, a licensed private investigator for about 40 years, who was hired by the defense to investigate Loyd's case.

McKenna said he took photographs and videos of the outside of Walmart on Aug. 7, 2019. Jurors were then shown the video, which shows McKenna walking the length of the store from north to south.

McKenna said he also reviewed in-store video from Walmart that was provided by the state of Florida.

The defense next called Anna Cox, who owns a private forensic consultant business, to the stand.

Cox previously worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.

Cox said she went to Dixon's home and the Walmart as part of her investigation.

"By the nature of an outdoor scene, it's not uncommon for there to be evidence to be found outside of the crime scene," Cox said. "I went to see if there were any strike marks or defects that weren't documented. I did find what I considered to be a defect (at Walmart)."

She said a photo shown to the jurors depicted the so-called defect on a store window frame.

"What drew your attention to it?" she was asked.

"That was the only location I found of interest," Cox said. "I looked at all the window framing (at the store) to see if that was maybe a manufacturing defect. I wasn't able to find anything and that's why I documented it as (a defect)."

Cox said the defect is consistent with a bullet projectile. She said she could exclude an AK-47 and a shotgun, but it's not known what type of gun she thinks caused the defect.

She said a photo taken by law enforcement a couple of days after the 2017 shooting at Walmart also showed the defect.

Cox said she was aware of the bullet fragment that was found at the south end of Walmart and was asked her opinion of the quality of work in the recovery of the fragment and its documentation.

"I didn't feel the documentation was appropriate," Cox said. "I was unsure why a CSI didn't respond to the location. I would have asked them to mark it until I got there so I could document that in relation to the rest of the evidence that was collected that same day."

During cross-examination, the state asked Cox about the defect at Walmart.

"I can't say that it is absolutely (from a gunshot)," Cox said. "I feel as though something struck the window pane."

Cox also said she doesn't know if the defect was caused by a ricochet or was related to the shooting involving Clayton.

After lunch, the defense called forensic computer scientist and electronic evidence consultant John Sawicki and Loyd's cousin, Glenn McCree.

Sawicki said evidence from Dixon's cellphone showed that she accessed Loyd's Facebook account and made phone calls and took screenshots from the account. He did not discuss the content of those screenshots.

McCree testified that Dixon was smoking marijuana while she was pregnant, which upset Loyd.

"He didn't want her smoking weed cause she was pregnant," McCree said.

He also said Loyd acted differently after he was robbed. At that point, he started carrying two guns, according to McCree.

After McCree's testimony, the judge questioned Loyd to make sure that he was not pressured to take the stand.

"I don't want there to be any problems during your testimony," Marques said.

The jury and the audience were then given instructions to treat Loyd as they would any other witness.

Earlier, the state's first witness Monday morning was Dr. Sara Zydowicz, an associate medical examiner in Orlando. She explained her background and role, which she said is to establish the cause and manner of death of deceased individuals. She said she performs about 220 to 250 autopsies per year.

Zydowicz, who performed an autopsy on Dixon on Dec. 14, 2016, was shown several photos of Dixon's injuries, which were admitted into evidence over the defense's objections.

"If there are multiple gunshot wounds, I use the lettering system to refer to them," Zydowicz said. "I can't tell which ordered they happen, but it's a method of reference."

Zydowicz then detailed Dixon's eight gunshot wounds to the jury, telling them in which part of her body they were located and whether the gun had been next to her skin when it was fired.

Zydowicz said her autopsy verified that Dixon was pregnant at the time of her death with what appeared to be a baby boy.

"The cause of death for Dixon was multiple gunshot wounds," she said. "The manner was homicide."

During cross-examination, defense attorney Terry Lenamon asked Zydowicz if she could tell if all the wounds were direct hits or ricochets.

"It's possible they were ricochets," she said.

Juror dismissed 

Over the weekend, Marques ruled in the state's favor to dismiss a juror, stating, "I'm concerned about the fact that this juror's answers have been consistently misleading -- whether it's intentional or not, it is misleading" 

The issue came to light when another juror said the woman had lied about her employment history. The state then learned that she also did not disclose in a questionnaire that she had been involved in a domestic violence incident as a teen.

Loyd, who faces the death penalty if convicted, could take the stand as early as Monday after the state rests its case.

Weekend testimony

Saturday marked the first full day of testimony. On Friday, after opening statements, jurors heard from the first deputy on the scene and saw body camera video of the shooting aftermath.

Dixon's two brothers and her parents also took the stand. The shooting happened when the whole family was home in December 2016.

Ronald Alan Stuart Jr., 29, Dixon's older brother, whom Loyd is accused of shooting during the same encounter, was the first of the family to testify.

[RELATED: Body camera shows night Markeith Loyd taken to police HQ | Here's what to expect from the prosecution during the Markeith Loyd trial]

Stuart testified he went outside the home to see his sister and Loyd arguing prior to the shooting.

Dixon's mother, father and younger brother also took the stand Friday, along with a neighbor who heard the shooting and the first responding deputy on the scene.

Check back for updates as the trial continues.