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Stand your ground motion denied for Keravuori in Cocoa motel killing

Victim was repeatedly stabbed while in town to watch SpaceX launch, authorities say

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Joshua Keravuori's lawyers failed to convince a Brevard County judge to dismiss the murder charge against him under Florida's stand your ground statute, according to a decision issued Thursday.

Keravuori, 20, argued that he killed Terry Hilliard to defend himself from a sexual assault at a Cocoa motel in February 2018 when he was subsequently charged with first-degree murder, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Hilliard's body was found in his motel room Feb. 8 after he had previously picked Keravuori up while hitchhiking. Security footage at the motel showed Keravuori leaving around the time of Hilliard's death.

His death was caused by repeated stabbing and blunt force trauma to the head, according to medical examiners.

Hilliard, 65, was visiting the Brevard County area to watch a SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch on Feb. 7, 2018, police records said. He had told relatives he booked a room in the Dixie Motel, 301 Forrest Ave.

After the killing, a manhunt was conducted in search of Keravuori, who was able to flee the state before ultimately being arrested in Georgia nearly two weeks later.

“He attempted to rape me, and I stabbed him to death,” Keravuori told arresting officers.

Under Florida’s stand your ground law, a person has no duty to retreat from a perceived threat and may use lethal force.

Judge Jeffrey Mahl decided the prosecution had met the burden of proof necessary to show Keravuori was not simply defending himself at the time of the attack.

According to medical examiner's reports, Hilliard suffered multiple stab wounds to the torso, shoulders and head, as well as blunt force trauma to the back of the head.

Keravuori's lawyers argued that, despite losing nearly a third of his blood, Hilliard could have continued to attack the defendant until he died.

He will next appear at the Viera courthouse for a calendar call to establish the status of the case.