Man pleads guilty in double murder at St. Pete convenience store
CLEARWATER - Khadafy Mullens apparently didn’t want a jury to see what seven surveillance cameras captured on Aug. 17, 2008: Mullens killing two people and wounding a third during a convenience store robbery in St. Petersburg. Today, two weeks before he was scheduled to go on trial, Mullens, now 29, took the unusual step of pleading guilty to all the charges he was facing – two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder – without anything promised in return. He could still be sentenced to death. His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jill Menadier, persuaded Circuit Judge Philip Federico to waive the death penalty phase of the case, where a jury listens to arguments and evidence before giving the judge a recommendation.Instead, Federico will decide Mullens’ fate on his own. Glenn Martin, one of the prosecutors in the case, told Federico the State Attorney’s Office preferred a jury hear the evidence because the public had the right to weigh in on the issue. Federico asked Menadier what role the surveillance footage played in Mullen’s decision to plead guilty, but she declined to answer. Mullens, a high school dropout now on medication for a mental illness, appeared in court in his blue Pinellas County Jail uniform. When Federico asked him whether he thought his plea was the best course of action, Mullens said, “Everybody feels that way.” Mullens shot Mohammad Nasir Uddin, 44, who owned the Central Food Mart, at 2157 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, during a robbery. Uddin, 44, died the next day. Mullens also shot Ronald Hayworth, 50, a transient who stumbled upon the robbery, and he eventually died, too. A third person, Albert Barton, then 66, was shot but survived. Though Mullens was the gunman in the robbery, he had an accomplice: 32-year-old Spencer Peeples. Peeples is scheduled to go on trial on identical charges this summer, said Assistant State Attorney Mark McGarry. That Sunday, at 6:35 p.m., the pair took cash and lottery tickets from the store, along with the keys to Uddin’s 2002 four-door Toyota, police say. Peeples went to get the car, while Mullens stepped outside to wait. Peeples didn’t drive up immediately. Mullens went back inside the store, found Uddin on the phone calling 911 and shot him. Mullens then threw Hayworth on the floor and shot him. Mullens was about to leave when Barton walked in and tried to leave, sensing something was awry, McGarry told the judge while encapsulating the case. Mullens dragged him back in and shot him, too, but he survived. The robbers became aware of a surveillance camera in the store, found a video recorder and took it, police said. What they didn't know was that a new recorder had been installed, and they missed the functioning recorder, which captured the entire robbery and shooting, with quality images and sound. Mullens and Peeples were later arrested. “I’m going to beat this with my hands behind my back,” Mullens said before he was taken to jail. The video, which lasts roughly 10 minutes, shows the accused thieves rifling through the store counter area for valuables, and pointing a gun in Uddin’s face. After Peeples leaves, the video captures Uddin trying frantically with his hands to stop the imminent bullet, which hits him in the head, and Uddin’s body slumps behind the counter. The video also shows Hayworth falling in a struggle with Mullens, with Mullens shooting him in the head as Hayworth sits on the floor. After Mullens drags Barton back into the store, Barton struggles for his life, reaching for the gun, as he is shot three times, once in the face, the video shows. Mullens’ sentencing is scheduled to begin May 13.