DAYTONA BEACH — Shawn Rupe’s defense attorney told jurors on Tuesday at his murder trial that only a cigarette butt links him to the scene of the beating death of a man on the roof of the Peabody Auditorium.
Shawn Rupe, 25, of Daytona Beach, is accused of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon in the killing of 30-year-old Dylan Tharp, whose battered and bloody body was found clad only in a pair of black socks on Nov. 3, 2012. Rupe nodded his head at various times as he looked toward his defense attorney BeJae Shelton, who stood at a podium, delivering her opening statement to the jury.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence will show that Mr. Rupe is innocent. The evidence will show that there is no forensic evidence linking Mr. Rupe to the crime scene except for his DNA on a cigarette butt which will be explained by other evidence,” said Shelton, who has teamed with Ann Finnell to defend Rupe.
Jeremy Maruska, 24, also was charged in Tharp’s killing, and he was tried and convicted on Aug. 25 of first-degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon. Maruska was sentenced to life in prison on each charge by Circuit Judge Leah Case, who also is presiding over Rupe’s trial at the S. James Foxman Justice Center in Daytona Beach. The murder sentence carries a mandatory life with no parole.
Tharp’s body was on the tallest roof of the Peabody Auditorium, about four stories above the street. It was one of the more unusual murder scenes Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood has seen in a career that stretches back to his days as a beat cop in Philadelphia.