BROOKVILLE — Although he was convicted last week on first-degree murder charges, George Mason III will wait nearly two months to find out whether he will face death for the crimes.
The fate of the 47-year-old Brooksville man — found guilty by a jury on June 15 of fatally shooting three people and critically injuring a fourth in 2014 — could have been decided Monday morning. But when Mason appeared before Hernando County Circuit Judge Stephen Toner and a jury for his penalty phase, his attorney Devon Sharkey asked that the court hold off until August.
"After speaking with our witnesses and gathering as much information as we can ... it seems the earliest that we would be able to proceed collectively ... would be Aug. 13," he told the court.
Toner and Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino, the prosecutor in the case, agreed.
Following the jury’s guilty verdict, Magrino told the Tampa Bay Times: "The Office of the State Attorney, law enforcement and the victims’ family are pleased that the jury returned the verdict as they did."
Before dismissing jurors on Monday, Toner acknowledged the lengthy continuance and them not to indulge in conversations or read anything about Mason’s case.
"It’s tough, I get that," he said. "Just keep in mind that it’s very, very important."
Just before leaving the courtroom, Mason, dressed in a blue plaid button-down, raised his hand and told Toner he wants to challenge a pending charge against him — being a felon in possession of a firearm.
"I want to fight it sir," Mason said. "I want to take the state to trial on that charge."
The judge told him a pre-trial date would be set, likely for Aug. 13.
Brooksville police said on the night of Aug. 29, 2014, Mason shot four people at a small, cream-colored house at 820 Peach St. — home to his half-brother, Gabriel "Bo" Taylor, their mother Tracey Taylor and their 81-year-old grandmother, Jannie V. Taylor.
Three people died: Tarasha Yata Townsend, Mason’s 37-year-old girlfriend and mother of his two daughters; his grandmother, and Ralph Peyton, another son of his mother’s. Gabriel Taylor, 33, was critically wounded.
At the time, police said they weren’t aware of a motive. Mason, whose criminal history dates back to 1991, records show, was "just hellbent on violent outrage," said then-Brooksville Police Chief George Turner.
Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.