Richard Knight was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the murders of a mother and her daughter. According to court documents Richard Knight would Odessia Stephens and her four year old daughter Hanessia Mullings after he was asked to move out of the home. Richard Knight would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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The evidence presented at trial established that Knight lived in an apartment with his cousin, Hans Mullings, Mullings’ girlfriend, Odessia Stephens, and their daughter, Hanessia Mullings. Mullings and Odessia had asked Knight to move out numerous times.
On the night of the murder, June 27, 2000, Mullings was at work. At approximately 9 p.m., Mullings spoke to Odessia, who said she was going to bed, and then Mullings left his office to run errands. Knight was at the apartment with Odessia and Hanessia.
Around midnight, an upstairs neighbor heard multiple thumping sounds on the apartment walls and two female voices, one of which was a child crying. The neighbor called 911 at 12:21 a.m. on June 28, 2000. The cries continued after the police arrived.
Officer Vincent Sachs was the first to respond. He arrived at 12:29 a.m. and noted that the lights were on in the master bedroom and hall area, and that a second bedroom’s window was slightly ajar. After knocking and receiving no response, he walked around the unit and noticed that the lights had been turned off and that the previously ajar window was now completely open and blinds were hanging out of it. Sachs shined his flashlight through the dining room window. He saw blood in the dining room and master bedroom. Further, he noticed Hanessia curled in the fetal position against the closet door. Once inside, he observed Odessia’s body in the living room. All of the doors were locked and there had been no ransacking of the apartment.
Officer Natalie Mocny arrived next and walked around the unit. She also saw the open window and noticed Knight on the other side of some hedges approximately 100 yards from the building. She beckoned him over for questioning. Officer Sachs joined Mocny. According to the officers, Knight had a scratch on his chest, a scrape on his shoulder, and fresh cuts on his hands. Although it was not raining, Knight was visibly wet. Knight was wearing dress clothes and shoes, yet told Mocny that he had been jogging, and that he lived in the apartment, but did not have a key to get inside. There was blood on the shirt he was wearing and on a ten-dollar bill in his possession.
The crime scene investigation recovered two wet towels in Knight’s bedroom, a shirt, boxers, and a pair of jean shorts under the sink in the bathroom near Knight’s bedroom, all of which belonged to Knight and had numerous bloodstains. Two knife blades were also recovered, one from under the mattress in the master bedroom, and another from under Odessia’s body.
Odessia’s blood was found in the master bedroom between the bed and the wall, on the master bedroom blinds, on the living room carpet, on the knives’ handles and blades, and on the knife holder in the kitchen. Odessia’s blood was also discovered on Knight’s boxers, shirt, jean shorts, the clothing Knight had been wearing when arrested, and his hand. Fingernail scrapings taken from Odessia contained Knight’s DNA profile.
Hanessia’s blood was found on one of the knives, on Knight’s boxers, jean shorts, and on the shower curtain. The shower curtain also contained the blood of Knight’s acquaintance, Victoria Martino.
Dr. Lance Davis, the medical examiner, observed the bodies at the scene. Odessia was found on the living room floor near the entrance with several broken knife pieces around her. She had twenty-one stab wounds: fourteen in the neck, one on the chin, and the rest on her back and chest. Additionally, she had twenty-four puncture or scratch wounds and bruising and ligature marks on her neck. The bruises appeared to have been made by a belt or similar object. She also had defensive wounds on both hands and wounds on her leg, chest, back and neck. Several of the knife wounds were fatal but none would have resulted in an instantaneous death. She had bruises from being punched on her scalp and mouth. Davis opined that Knight began his attack in the bedroom with Odessia fleeing to the living room. He estimated that Odessia was conscious for ten to fifteen minutes after the attack.
Davis discovered Hanessia on the floor next to the closet door. There were broken knife pieces around her. She had a total of four stab wounds in her upper chest and neck. Her hand had one additional stab wound and numerous defensive wounds. Hanessia’s arms and upper body had numerous bruises and scratches. There were bruises on her neck that were consistent with manual strangulation and bruises on her arms consistent with being grabbed.
Stephen Whitsett and Knight were housed together from June 29, 2000, to July 22, 2000, at the Broward County Jail. Knight confessed to Whitsett about the murders as follows: The night of the murders Knight and Odessia argued. She told him that she did not want to support him and that he would have to move. He asked for some more time because he had just gotten a job, but Odessia refused and told him to leave in the morning. Knight left the house to go for a walk and he became increasingly angry. He returned that night, confronted Odessia in her room, and they argued.
Knight went to the kitchen and got a knife. When he went back to the master bedroom, Odessia was on one side of the bed and Hanessia was on the other. He began by stabbing Odessia multiple times. Odessia eventually stopped defending herself and balled up into a fetal position. Knight then turned to four-year-old Hanessia. The knife broke while he was stabbing Hanessia, so he returned to the kitchen for another. Upon returning, Knight saw Hanessia had crawled to the closet door and was drowning in her own blood.
Again, Knight returned to the kitchen and accidentally cut his hand on one of the broken knives that he had used to stab Odessia and Hanessia. He grabbed another knife. Odessia had crawled from the master bedroom to the living room and was lying in her own blood. He rolled her over and continued his attack. Odessia’s blood covered Knight’s hands, so he wiped them on the carpet.
Knight further confessed that, after he finished with Odessia, he went to the bathroom, took off the blood soaked shorts and T-shirt, and tossed them under the sink. He showered and put on blue polo pants. He wiped down the knives in the living room. At that time, Knight heard a knock on the door and saw the police outside through the peep hole. He ran to his room and out the window. In an attempt to deflect suspicion away from himself, Knight returned to his bedroom window where he saw a female police officer.
Knight was charged by indictment on August 15, 2001, for the murders of Odessia Stephens and Hanessia Mullings. The jury found Knight guilty of both counts of first-degree murder.