NAPLES — A picture of chaos emerged Wednesday as witnesses recounted in a Collier County courtroom what happened the night Gulf Coast High student Jake Couture was shot and killed and two others injured at a North Naples apartment complex last New Year's Day.
The trial of James Menard, 24, enters its third day today and would continue into the weekend if it isn't wrapped up by Friday, Collier Circuit Judge Frank Baker said.
Menard faces a top charge of second-degree murder in the case, punishable by a maximum life sentence if convicted. Menard's attorney, Tim Moffitt, has said Menard shot in self-defense.
Among the witnesses Wednesday were Michael Fleitas, 16, who was shot in the buttocks, and Brandon Standifer, 22, who was visiting Naples from Tampa and was shot in the chest.
A confrontation between two groups of mostly teenagers, one including Menard and the other including Couture, 17, led to the shootings at the Brittany Bay Apartments.
Couture, Fleitas, Standifer, and Brandon Morales, also 17, were returning to Morales' apartment in Couture's white Mercedes after buying beer at a convenience store for an underage neighbor, witnesses said.
Morales said he got a phone call from Corenzo Smith, 19, who had stayed behind. Smith told Morales people he didn't know were knocking on Morales' door.
Standifer told the courtroom he got out of the car and took off his shirt to intimidate the group at Morales' door, which included Menard.
"It was really a bluff game," Standifer said. "I was trying to scare them into leaving. I was telling them to get the f out of here."
Standifer said he grabbed the sleeve of Menard's shirt to try to get him to turn around, Menard stumbled backward and then shot Standifer.
At Wednesday's trial, Standifer stood in the middle of the courtroom with his shirt unbuttoned and his tie off to show jurors three scars beneath his T-shirt where the bullet entered and where doctors removed fragments.
After the first shot, Morales, Fleitas and Couture ran into the ground floor entryway of Morales' apartment and tried to scramble up the narrow interior stairs to the second floor, Morales said.
"We were falling and slipping," he said.
Fleitas said he didn't know he had been shot until Morales told him once upstairs. When the two came back down the stairs, they found Couture lying in blood on the tile floor, his head on the bottom step, they said.
Morales said he was crying and screaming for someone to call 911 as he dragged Couture onto the sidewalk outside the apartment.
Attorneys focused Wednesday on a toy Uzi-like gun that Morales took from an entryway closet in his apartment during the confrontation.
A court bailiff showed the jury the toy gun, walking in front of the jury as he carried the toy gun in an evidence box about the size of a shirt box.
Under questioning by Moffitt, Standifer denied telling Morales to "get the fire" as they approached the group at Morales' door.
Morales said he knew the toy, which he had gotten from Couture, was broken. He said he held it at his side and did not wave it or point it.
"It wasn't to scare anyone. It was for protection," Morales said.
As the confrontation played out, Menard's roommate, Carlos Nazco, stayed behind at the white truck Menard had driven to the apartments with Nazco and two others, Philip Markle and Jacob Markham.
They had been going to visit Nazco's sister at the apartments, but Markle and Markham suggested stopping at Morales' apartment first, Nazco said.
Nazco said he didn't hear anyone yelling at them to leave but said he heard Standifer tell Morales to "get the fire."
The commotion was loud enough to get the attention of Jolene Pelletier, in the second floor apartment across the parking lot.
She said she saw Menard fire the first shot and then continue to fire what she said could have been four more shots as he ran back toward his truck.
At the truck, Menard paused and put his hands on his head before he got in the truck and sped off, Pelletier said.
JAKE COUTURE SHOOTING
- Teens, 2 from Palmetto Ridge High, questioned in Jake Couture slaying; named suspected shooter
- $3M bond set for Jake Couture's accused killer James Matthew Menard
- James Matthew Menard arrested in triple shooting, Jake Couture slaying
- VIDEO: Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announces an arrest in the New Years Day triple shooting that led to the death of Jake Couture.
- 23-year-old charged in triple shooting, Jake Couture slaying
- 1,400 attend funeral for Gulf Coast High’s Jake Couture
- 911 calls from Jake Couture shooting reveal chaos at scene
- Gulf Coast High deals with shock of shooting death of student; Jake Couture funeral tonight
- Gulf Coast High provides counselors to those mourning fellow student’s death
- Editorial: Collier County Sheriff’s Office ... agency should air video from fatal-shooting site
- 3 suspects sought in slaying of Gulf Coast High student; Report says 1 shooter, 5 shots
- Family, friends hold vigil for slain Gulf Coast High student
- Teen, 'friends with everyone,' shot, killed at North Naples apartments; 2 others injured
- 1 killed, 2 injured after shooting at North Naples apartment complex
- Press Conference: Arrest made in Jake Couture slaying
- Photo Gallery: January 5, 2010 - Jake Couture Service
- Photo Gallery: January 3, 2010 - Vigil for Jake Couture
- Facebook.com Gallery posted by family and friends of Jake Couture
- Ongoing photo gallery with photos of Jake Couture posted on Facebook.com by friends and family members
- NBC 2: Bond for teen's accused murderer set at $3M
- NDN VIDEO: Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk announces an arrest in the New Years Day triple shooting that led to the death of Jake Couture.
- NBC 2: Sheriff's office: Arrest made in teen's murder
- NBC 2: Funeral held for murdered teen
- NBC 2: One dead, two injured in North Naples apartment shooting
- NBC 2: Collier teen killed in apartment shooting remembered
- NBC 2: 9-1-1 tapes released after fatal shooting
- Read the obituary for Jake Couture and sign the online guest book
- Read the Collier County Sheriff's Office report on the Jake Couture incident (.PDF file)
- Facebook Page: R.I.P Jake Couture. Gone But Never Forgotten
- Initial Collier County Sheriff's Office media release on the incident
- Collier Sheriff's Office Blog: Arrest Made In Triple Shooting
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #1: Four minutes, seven seconds. (.mp3 file)
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #2: Seven minutes, forty-two seconds. (.mp3 file)
- Download and listen to 911 calls from scene of the Jake Couture shooting. Call #3: Two minutes, thirty-four seconds. (.mp3 file)
- The Daily News has posted the 911 tapes, acquired from the Collier County Sheriffs Office, to help readers understand the series of events and confusion surrounding Friday night’s fatal shooting at a North Naples apartment complex. 17-year-old Gulf Coast High School junior Jake Couture was killed by a gunshot wound, and Michael Fleitas, 14, and Brandon Standifer, 21, were injured. Some moments of silence exist on the tapes due to sections that have been removed by the sheriff’s office. We caution listeners that some of the content is graphic, and some of the language used may be considered profane and offensive.