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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 31, 1994
Date of arrest: Next day (wounded by police)
Date of birth: October 7, 1975
Victim profile: Sean Hathorne, 18
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Duval County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on October 20, 1995

Supreme Court of Florida


opinion 86931


DC#  302491
DOB:  10/07/75

Fourth Judicial Circuit, Duval County, Case #95-1449-CF
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable R. Hudson Olliff
Attorney, Trial: Refik Eler – Esquire
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Nada M. Carey – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Linda McDermott – Registry

Date of Offense:  08/31/94

Date of Sentence:  10/20/95

Circumstances of Offense:

Michael Shellito was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Sean Hathorne.  During the early morning hours of 08/31/94, Sean Hathorne, the 18-year-old victim, died from being shot in the chest.

Near midnight on 08/30/94, a group of people, including Shellito, had gathered at the home of Stephen Gill.  Shellito left the gathering and returned approximately an hour later. 

Upon returning to Gill’s residence, Shellito showed a .9-mm-firearm to Ricky Bays, one of the other people at Gill’s residence.  Kevin Keyes, who lived only a few miles from Gill, reported that a firearm was stolen from his automobile that night. 

On 08/31/94, around 4:00 a.m., Shellito and Gill drove Gill’s girlfriend home in a white truck that belonged to Gill’s mother.  Near Gill’s girlfriend’s residence, Shellito wanted to get out of the truck because he needed to “talk to someone.”  Gill stopped so that Shellito could get out and left to take his girlfriend home. 

About the same time, Michael Green heard a popping noise coming from in front of his home and looked outside.  He observed the victim, who was standing near a white truck, turn, run, and then fall down.  Green called the police.  When, the police arrived, they found the body of Sean Hathorne near Green’s front fence.

Around 5:30 a.m., Shellito and Gill arrived back at Gill’s apartment.  Shellito told Ricky Bays that he shot a man after concluding that the man did not have any money.  Shellito did not indicate whether Gill was involved in the shooting. 

On the evening of 08/31/94, people again gathered at Gill’s residence.  During this time, Shellito described the murder to several other people, including Lateria Copeland and Theresa Ritzer.  Later that night, during the early part of 09/01/94, the police raided Gill’s apartment.  Shellito unsuccessfully tried to escape the apartment through a window.  He then pointed a firearm at an officer, who shot and injured Shellito.  The gun was taken from Shellito, and he was arrested.  The gun was matched to a shell casing from the murder scene and to the firearm stolen from Kevin Keyes.

During the trial, however, Shellito said that Gill was responsible for the murder.  Shellito’s mother also testified that Gill had admitted to her that he had killed Hathorne, and Shellito’s father claimed to have overheard this conversation.  Shellito’s mother claimed to have told a court representative about this confession; however, no one could verify this claim.

Additional Information:

In conjunction with the First-Degree Murder of Sean Hathorne, Shellito was also charged with two counts of Robbery with a Firearm on 08/31/94 for which he received two 35 years sentences.  Furthermore, during the early morning raid of Stephen Gill’s apartment on 09/01/94, Shellito committed aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer when he tried to escape through a window.  Shellito was sentenced to 30 years for this offense.

Trial Summary:

09/01/94          Shellito was arrested.

02/09/95          Shellito was indicted on the following:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder

07/21/95          Shellito was found guilty on Count I of the indictment.

08/21/95          Upon advisory sentencing, the jury, by an 11 to 1 majority, voted for the death penalty.

10/20/95          Shellito was sentenced as follows:

Count I:           First-Degree Murder – Death

Case Information:

Michael Shellito filed his Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 12/01/95.  He raised several issues on Direct Appeal.  Shellito argued that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Shellito trying to escape arrest, that the prosecutor denied him a fair trial by making inflammatory remarks, and that the aggravating and mitigating factors were improperly evaluated. 

The Florida Supreme Court did not find errors that warranted reversing the conviction or sentence and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 09/11/97.  Rehearing was denied on 11/26/97.  A Mandate was issued on 12/29/97.

Shellito filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on 02/23/98.  The petition was denied on 04/20/98.

Shellito filed a 3.850 Motion in the Duval County Circuit Court on 04/20/99.  An amended motion was filed on 06/22/99, 03/31/03 and 03/04/05.  The motion is currently pending.



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