Marvin Cannon was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for a robbery murder. According to court documents Marvin Cannon and an accomplice would rob two men and in the process stab both of them killing one. Marvin Cannon was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Marvin Cannon 2021 Information
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Sean Neel and Zechariah1 Morgan were coworkers at Florida State Hospital and had been friends for over twenty years. In the fall of 2010, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Neel became involved in the purchase of corn, known as “deer corn,” from the defendant, Marvin Cannon. On December 24, 2010, Mr. Morgan and Mr. Neel drove to a convenience store to pick up Cannon. Mr. Neel understood the purpose of this trip to be the completion of a corn purchase. While waiting at the store, the two men noticed two people walking down the street toward them. Mr. Neel had never met or spoken with Cannon, but was familiar with Cannon’s father. Because of Cannon’s resemblance to his father, Mr. Neel recognized Cannon as one of the two men walking toward the truck, but did not recognize the other man. Mr. Neel would later discover that the second man’s name was Anton2 McMillian. Cannon and McMillian walked to Mr. Morgan’s side of the truck, and Mr. Morgan began to explain that there was no additional room in the truck for anyone other than Cannon. Mr. Morgan was driving a four-door, Ford “King Ranch” truck with a crew cab. Cannon told them McMillian was his cousin from New York and that Cannon wanted him to ride with them also. After some discussion, Mr. Morgan agreed, and he and Mr. Neel began clearing the back seat by stacking the newspapers, jackets, and other items in the center of the back seat so Cannon and McMillian could sit on either side. Among these items was a knife that Mr. Morgan placed in the center console.3 When the seats were cleared, Cannon sat on the back passenger side behind Mr. Neel and McMillian sat directly behind Mr. Morgan on the driver’s side.
At Cannon’s direction, Mr. Morgan drove onto Interstate Highway 10 (I–10). The four men conversed while driving and eventually turned off of I–10 onto Flat Creek Road. While they were heading west on Flat Creek Road, Cannon informed them that they had missed their turn, and Mr. Morgan made a U-turn. As Mr. Morgan drove eastbound for about two miles, he inquired of Cannon about Cannon’s familiarity with the area and how Cannon could let them travel two miles past where they were supposed to have turned, to which Cannon responded, “oh, we was talking” and “it just slipped my mind.” During the drive, Mr. Neel was “quartered around” in the front passenger seat with his head turned, looking directly at McMillian and conversing with him. Cannon eventually directed them onto a little dirt road, described by Mr. Neel as a “little pig trail,” in an overgrown, wooded area. As soon as they turned onto this dirt road, Mr. Neel heard Cannon fumbling in his jacket and saw Mr. Morgan turn around and look directly at Cannon. Cannon then began to talk as though he were on the phone; however, Mr. Neel was unsure whether Cannon had a cell phone because Mr. Neel was only looking at McMillian and did not turn to see Cannon.
Cannon then directed Mr. Morgan to turn behind an old, abandoned house. As Mr. Morgan made this turn, Mr. Neel glanced behind the house and simultaneously heard Cannon moving in the backseat. Suddenly, Mr. Neel was stabbed twice in the neck from behind. He testified that upon the first stab, he “looked right back at ․ McMillian,” who was sitting still in the same spot as before. Mr. Neel testified that although he could not see around his seat to see Cannon stabbing him, he knew it was Cannon because Mr. Neel was “looking right at [McMillian]” and “could tell 100 percent” that McMillian was not the one stabbing him.
As soon as Mr. Neel was stabbed, Mr. Morgan “looked dead at [Cannon]” and began to scream—“[l]ike a scared-to-death holler.” Mr. Morgan floored the gas pedal, and Mr. Neel grabbed the knife in the console and also grabbed for the door handle. The truck was now “all over the place ․ fishtailing everywhere,” and when the door sprung open, Mr. Neel flew out of the truck, losing his shoes, his hat, and the knife he had in his hand. When Mr. Neel got back on his feet, he looked back in time to see the truck plow into a tree next to an old shed. He did not see anyone at or near the truck and began running back up the dirt road to get help.
Upon reaching Flat Creek Road, Mr. Neel saw some people at a nearby home and ran toward them, yelling that they needed to “get the guns” and that his friend still needed help. The home belonged to the Renfroes. Upon seeing Mr. Neel, Vera Renfroe called 911 and ran toward Mr. Neel to help him. Some of the men from the home, who had retrieved their firearms, saw a man standing at the edge of the dirt road. Mr. Neel glanced in that direction, but could not say for certain which of the two men from the truck it could have been. Mrs. Renfroe also noticed this individual standing there looking around, but was not close enough to be able to identify him. The man eventually turned and ran in another direction toward a pond.
Alan Parrot, one of the men who had retrieved a firearm, drove his car toward the pond and found McMillian near the pond, looking confused and trying to run away. Mr. Parrot exited his vehicle and held his gun on McMillian until the police arrived. Shortly thereafter, Officer Michael Lawrence of the Gretna Police Department arrived. After Officer Lawrence handcuffed and put McMillian in the back seat of his patrol car, he and Mr. Parrot ran over to where Mr. Morgan’s truck had crashed into the tree. They saw Mr. Morgan’s body on the ground near the driver’s side door, checked his pulse, and determined that he was deceased. Other officers began to arrive on the scene and eventually someone noticed smoke coming from Mr. Morgan’s vehicle. When the passenger-side door was opened, the cab of the truck was engulfed in flames.
Lead Investigator Robbie Maxwell of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department had McMillian removed from the back of Officer Lawrence’s patrol car and photographed. One of the photographs documented some drops of blood on McMillian’s face. McMillian was then transferred to the patrol car of Investigator Brian Faison of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department for transport to the Sheriff’s Office. During transport, McMillian heard talk on the police radio about a search for a knife and told Investigator Faison that the knife they were looking for was in the back of the other patrol car. Upon inspection, Investigator Maxwell discovered a long, black-handled knife and a can or bottle opener on the back floorboard of the patrol car. The knife had a broken tip, which was later determined by a fiber and physical match analyst from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to match a triangular piece of metal found in Mr. Morgan’s head.
Also on the scene was Detective Eric Bryant with the State Fire Marshal’s Office. He testified that there was only minimal fire damage to the front of the truck with no fire damage to the hood or engine compartment. By this evidence, he excluded as the cause of the fire the truck crashing into the tree. The greatest degree of damage occurred in the rear seats of the truck, and Detective Bryant concluded that the fire’s point of origin was the rear passenger compartment behind the driver’s seat. He eliminated accidental causes, such as smoking and electrical or mechanical malfunctions, and opined that under the circumstances, the only cause of the fire was human, not accidental, means. No accelerants were used, and the truck’s fire retardant seats led Detective Bryant to conclude that the fire’s ignition point was the miscellaneous combustibles on top of the rear seats.
Among the officers at the scene was Deputy Joseph Barnes, a canine handler with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department. He had his tracking dog take a scent off of Mr. Morgan’s body to track anyone who had touched him, and the dog alerted positive for the scent on a fence near I–10. Deputy Barnes was joined by handler teams from Apalachee Correctional Institution, and the officers soon noticed a footprint going across a field near the fence. Eventually, the dogs tracked about a half-mile to a mile away from the crime scene, across the interstate and into another field, where the officers found Mr. Morgan’s wallet and some of its contents, including a credit card, strewn about the ground. The officers called someone else to secure the scene and kept tracking for about ten miles along the interstate toward a gas station.
Cannon was next seen at a Shell gas station near the interstate. The gas station attendant testified that a nervous, sweaty man had approached the window4 on foot and asked her to get him something to drink. He also asked her to leave her shift early to give him a ride. When she refused, Cannon began asking other customers for a ride and was eventually successful in obtaining one. Investigator Maxwell showed up right after Cannon left. The attendant told him what had occurred and showed him the security footage from the store’s video camera, depicting the man she had described. Investigator Maxwell recognized Cannon as the man in the video.5 Two days later, officers received a tip that Cannon was located in a motel off of Pat Thomas Parkway. Officers entered Cannon’s motel room and took him into custody. He was wearing the same shirt as that observed on him in the security footage.
Dr. Lisa Flannagan, a forensic pathologist with the Medical Examiner’s Office, testified that she conducted the autopsy on Mr. Morgan’s body and determined the cause of death to be multiple stab wounds. Mr. Morgan suffered at least thirty major stab wounds and some additional, more superficial injuries. He sustained four wounds to his face, one of which passed through the cheek and into the mouth cavity. X-rays of the wounds revealed a small triangular piece of metal embedded in the right side of his forehead, which was later determined to be a piece from the tip of the knife found in the back of the patrol car where McMillian had been sitting.
The most severe and fatal of Mr. Morgan’s wounds included a neck wound—which injured the carotid artery and the jugular vein, but would not have been immediately incapacitating—and stabs wounds to the chest and upper back, which injured the pulmonary vein and punctured both lungs, causing them to collapse. There were several defensive wounds on his arms and hands and a curved configuration of small abrasions on the back of his left hand that were consistent with a bite mark or teeth impressions.
The medical examiner testified that Mr. Morgan’s wounds could have all been inflicted by the knife with the broken tip. However, she could not rule out another knife having caused some of the injuries. She testified that, based on the extent of the injuries, Mr. Morgan was likely “upright” and “struggling” for a least part of the attack. Lastly, the medical examiner did not believe all of the injuries were sustained while Mr. Morgan was in the truck “because he’s, obviously, moving and fighting and the injuries being in so many different locations on both sides of the neck, the left shoulder area, the forearms, his back, and his chest.” She testified that there was no way to determine the sequence in which the wounds were inflicted.
Other testimony established that the murder occurred on a plot of land rented by Cannon’s father for farming. There was never any corn found stored on the property. The knife Cannon used to stab Mr. Neel was never conclusively identified. A black, butcher-type knife contained blood for which Mr. Morgan, McMillian and Cannon were excluded as contributors, but the data was insufficient to determine Mr. Neel’s possible contribution. Mr. Morgan’s blood was found on Cannon’s shirt, McMillian’s clothing and shoes, and McMillian’s face. The mixture of DNA on Mr. Morgan’s back pockets excluded Cannon and Mr. Neel as contributors, but included Mr. Morgan and McMillian as possible contributors. The limited DNA evidence from the blood found under Mr. Morgan’s fingernails excluded Cannon and Mr. Neel as possible contributors, but did not provide enough information to determine McMillian’s possible contribution.
As to Mr. Morgan, the jury found Cannon guilty of first-degree murder—on theories of both premeditation and felony murder—and robbery with a deadly weapon. The jury also convicted Cannon of attempted first-degree premeditated murder and attempted armed robbery as to Mr. Neel and found Cannon guilty of arson for the burning of Mr. Morgan’s truck. At the conclusion of the penalty phase, the jury recommended death by a vote of nine to three.