Three out of four murder cases expected to go to trial on August 21 have been rescheduled, with one now set for February. Two cases involving fatal shootings have been postponed to this fall, while the third has been moved to next year. One of the cases involves the fatal shooting of a woman at a Venice bank, with the trial now scheduled for August 21. Another case, in connection to a 2018 killing, has been pushed to November. A third case, related to a shooting in Ackerman Park, has also been rescheduled to November. Additionally, the trial for a Punta Gorda man accused of a shooting death has been moved to February 2024. Gabriela Szymanowska reported
The trial dates for four murder cases were originally set to begin on August 21, but three of them have been postponed to later dates, with one now scheduled for February. Two cases involving fatal shootings have been rescheduled for trial in the fall, while the third case has been moved to next year, more than five years after the defendant was arrested in connection to a shooting in North Port.
One of the cases involves William Tollard, who was arrested in October 2020 and charged with first-degree murder after allegedly shooting a woman at a Venice bank. Witnesses reported seeing Tollard approach the woman at the drive-thru of BB&T Bank and firing multiple shots before fleeing the scene. The victim’s identity and her relationship with Tollard have not been disclosed due to legal reasons. The prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Karen Fraivillig, intends to present Tollard’s 911 call and EMT records as evidence during the trial.
Another case involves Howard China Smith III, who was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and armed robbery in connection to a 2018 killing. Police received an anonymous tip identifying Smith as the shooter, and ballistics evidence matched the shell casings found at the crime scene to bullets recovered from Smith’s home during an unrelated search. A confidential source also claimed to have overheard Smith admitting to attempting to rob and shoot the victim. The trial for Smith has been rescheduled to November due to scheduling conflicts and ongoing discovery and depositions.
Nyquan Priester, the third defendant, is facing charges of second-degree murder, discharging a firearm from a vehicle, and altering physical evidence. He was arrested in January 2022 in connection to a shooting in Ackerman Park that resulted in the death of a bystander. Witnesses reported that a group of approximately 50 people had gathered at the park when gunshots were fired from a car. One of the bullets struck and killed a bystander. A co-defendant, Kalvion Turner, reached a plea deal in August 2022 in exchange for testifying against Priester. Turner pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received probation.
The trial for Priester has also been postponed to November due to various factors, including Turner’s plea deal and the need for additional discovery and depositions.
Lastly, Juan Salazar Diaz, from Punta Gorda, was expected to appear in court this month in connection to the shooting death of a 20-year-old individual from Port Charlotte. The victim’s gender identity was a topic of discussion, as they may have identified as a transgender woman. Salazar Diaz was linked to the shooting through phone records, DNA, and fingerprint analysis. The trial for Salazar Diaz has been delayed until February 2024.
It is important to note that the North Port police initially refrained from attributing the victim’s murder to violence against a transgender person but considered all possible motives. The victim’s exploration of gender identity was acknowledged by local LGBTQ advocates.
In summary, the trial dates for these four murder cases have been rescheduled, some due to scheduling conflicts and others due to ongoing investigative processes. The cases involve various circumstances, including fatal shootings and robbery, and the defendants will face charges ranging from first-degree murder to second-degree murder..