First trial begins for murder of Navy commander Doss

Christiaan DeFranco
Posted 9/21/16

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Anthony Washington said he didn’t mean to kill anybody. It was self-defense, an accident.

Prosecutors say Washington, his lover Yolinda Doss and his buddy Ronnie Wilson II …

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First trial begins for murder of Navy commander Doss

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS — Anthony Washington said he didn’t mean to kill anybody. It was self-defense, an accident.

Prosecutors say Washington, his lover Yolinda Doss and his buddy Ronnie Wilson II believed they had committed the perfect murder.

On Tuesday, Washington, 31, was the first of the trio to go on trial for the murder of U.S. Navy commander Alphonso Doss – a decorated veteran and the estranged husband of Yolinda Doss – at the Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in Orange Park in February 2014.

A jury of eight women and four men (with a male and female alternate) will decide Washington’s fate. The jury includes nine minorities.

Washington, who police allege was accompanied at the motel by Wilson, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and burglary with assault. The State of Florida believes he did the actual killing – manual strangulation of Cmdr. Doss – and he could face the death penalty.

“No fingerprints and no DNA were left in the room,” Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said in his opening statement. “They thought they got away with it.”

de la Rionda, whom state attorney Angela Corey appointed to prosecute George Zimmerman in 2013 for the murder of Trayvon Martin, said that Washington and Wilson went to Yolinda Doss’s house after the killing to enjoy a steak dinner.

The three, who allegedly staged the crime scene to look like a break-in, were hoping to collect on Cmdr. Doss’s life-insurance policy worth $1 million, according to police.

The investigation revealed that the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Washington, who weighed 365 pounds at the time of the murder, was at the motel, strangled Doss, stole his breathing machine and left him on the floor “gurgling” and in the throes of death, according to police.

Cellphone records confirmed that Washington was at the hotel the night of the murder.

Defense attorney Janis Warren painted a very different picture in her opening statement Tuesday, portraying Cmdr. Doss as a severe alcoholic prone to violent outbursts whose life was falling apart and who attacked Washington on the night in question.

“(Washington) not only acted in self-defense, but Mr. Doss’s death was just a tragic accident,” she told the jury, placing a hand on Washington’s shoulder. “You need to know what happened, you need to know the context, you need to know the history.”

Warren also said that Doss had made threats toward his wife and was abusive.

The prosecution contended that Yolinda Doss was the “mastermind” of the murder plot and that she was the lookout on the night of the murder. She had new key-cards made for the room of Cmdr. Doss, who was living at the motel during the couple’s estrangement, and Washington and Wilson used the key-cards to enter the room while Cmdr. Doss was out so they could wait in the dark to kill him when he arrived.

The defense argued that Washington and Wilson just went to the motel to talk with Doss and warn him to stay away from Yolinda, but Doss arrived drunk and belligerent, and lunged at Washington. The defense asserted that Washington grabbed Doss by his neck, to defend himself, and threw him across the room but didn’t mean to kill him.

The prosecution then launched into the evidence of the case by showing hundreds of pictures of the crime scene, including pictures of a deceased Cmdr. Doss, whose body was partially covered by piles of clothes when he was discovered. Doss’s family became emotional in court.

Doss, who was from Mississippi, joined the Navy after high school in 1987. He completed two combat deployments in the Middle East, including one with the USS Forrestal, based in Mayport, in 1991.

He also completed a pair of secret overseas missions for the Navy. He also interviewed Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, a chief plotter of the 9/11 attacks, at Guantanamo Bay in 2006.

Doss was stationed in Pensacola in 2011, but later returned to Jacksonville, where he had been commissioned 15 years earlier through Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida.

He earned numerous commendations throughout his Naval career, including meritorious service and a joint service achievement medal for his work in Guantanamo Bay.

Doss was charged with driving under the influence in 2012, his career was ending, and he was seeking treatment for alcohol addiction and depression.

Yolinda Doss has a history of crime in her family. Her father, Robert Hunter, who was an elementary school principal in Mississippi, was convicted of trying to kill Richard Morton in 2003 in a Memphis hospital room. Morton was his lover’s husband. He was in the hospital recovering from bullet wounds after being gunned down outside his home.

Trial dates for Yolinda Doss and Wilson have yet to be scheduled. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Email Christiaan DeFranco at chris@opcfla.com. Follow him on Twitter @cdefranco.

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