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Grand jury to hear details of brutal slaying

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of August 21, 2014)

As gruesome details emerge on last June’s brutal killing of Sebastian River Medical Center nurse and Moorings resident Diana Duve, the state is convening a grand jury on Tuesday to consider formal first-degree murder charges against former PNC Wealth Management employee Michael David Jones.

Jones, who is accused of strangling Duve to death and leaving her in the trunk of her car in a Melbourne parking lot, pled not guilty last month and requested a jury trial. In order to proceed with first-degree murder charges, the state must obtain an indictment by the grand jury because Florida is a death penalty state.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said he could not comment about the state’s case against Jones as presented in the 22-page complaint released last week. “At this point in time the discovery is going to have to speak for itself,” he said.

Bakkedahl said Indian River County has its own grand jury, which has a total of 21 jurors, at least 15 of whom must be present for any session. Proceedings are held in secret at the Indian River County Courthouse with, on average, five to 10 witnesses being called to give testimony. Jurors are also given a lengthy explanation of the law as it pertains to the case and to the indictment. After that, jurors deliberate until they agree on whether or not they think there is sufficient evidence to indict.

“Generally, it’s all concluded that day, by late afternoon,” Bakkedahl said. “Once an indictment is returned, it will be read in public.”

Vero Beach Police Det. Bradley Kmetz is sure to be a key witness on Tuesday, as he drafted the long-form complaint affidavit presented to Judge Robert Pegg, which resulted in murder charges and Jones’ transfer to the Indian River County Jail from St. Lucie County where he was picked up hiding out at a Hampton Inn and charged with violation of probation.

The terms of Jones’ probation on a 2012 aggravated stalking charge prohibited him from leaving Indian River County.

Kmetz’s affidavit outlines the timeline of events as it was known to investigators a few days after Duve’s death – a timeline strung together via cellular phone location “pings” ranging from Melbourne to Fort Pierce.

Some disturbing new details in the document raise questions about what may have happened between the time Jones and Duve left What-a-Tavern at about 1:30 a.m. on Friday, June 20, and the moment she died of apparent strangulation at the hands of her on-again, off-again boyfriend.

The report states that Duve’s ankles showed marks that she had been restrained, the medical examiner noting the marks were made “while she was still alive.”  It also said she had what appeared to be multiple injection marks in her right hand and insulin vials were found in a spare bedroom of Jones’ Carolina Trace apartment.

It is not known whether either Duve or Jones was a type 1 diabetic, though several weeks ago, investigators subpoenaed copies of medical records from an urgent-care clinic Jones had visited in Fort Lauderdale around the time he was charged with threatening to kill his then-girlfriend.

But the injection marks and the vials of insulin make this already strange case even more bizarre.

The hand is not a typical injection point for diabetic patients, who commonly shoot insulin into a fleshy area – such as the abdomen or buttocks – where being stuck with a needle would be far less painful.

The Brevard County Medical Examiner’s office in Rockledge where Duve’s body was taken for examination would not comment Monday on whether evidence was found of an elevated insulin level in her body as neither the autopsy nor toxicology reports had been finalized. Those reports are expected to be presented as part of the grand jury testimony next week,

But the possibility that Jones had injected Duve with insulin revived memories of the sensational trials of Claus von Bulow, who in the 1980s was twice accused of trying to murder his socialite wife by injecting her with insulin.  Several dozen murder-by-insulin cases have been reported since.

Kmetz stated that the coroner determined Duve had been dead two to three days when the body was examined on June 24, meaning Duve could have been killed sometime on Friday morning –  as police say they suspect – or that she could have been bound, held and killed as late as Saturday, the day she was found in the trunk of her black Nissan Altima in Melbourne.

A neighbor of Jones told police he heard a loud banging “as if someone was attempting to hang pictures” coming from upstairs in Jones’ apartment at approximately 7 p.m. Friday night.

Kmetz cited the Brevard County Medical examiner as giving clues to Duve’s last moments of life.

“Dr. Qaiser stated it would take approximately four to six minutes of manual strangulation until the victim becomes deceased,” the affidavit said, adding that the injuries found – internal bleeding in the head and neck, bite marks on the tongue from seizure and a broken bone in her neck – were consistent with that manner of death.

The affidavit also includes iPhone photos and text messages from a cell phone of a Duve friend documenting that Jones attempted to strangle Duve on April 30 when police were called to Jones’ apartment by neighbors, and both Jones and Duve assured officers that all was well. Jones claimed the ruckus overheard by neighbors was from rough sex.

Duve apparently broke up with Jones after that, but they subsequently got back together. In the document, a close friend confirms that Duve went on vacation with Jones to the Keys in the weeks before her death.