Testimony continues in Hedvall's first-degree murder trial

skinney@keynoter.comMarch 26, 2014 

Prosecutors on Tuesday continued to make their case against Peter Erik Hedvall, accused of a brutal 2011 murder during Fantasy Fest in Key West.

Opening arguments in the first-degree murder case (prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty) were given March 19 and the case has been ongoing since.

Hedvall, 28, is accused of killing Jonathon Alvarado, a former server at La Trattoria Beachside who was 32 when he died, on Oct. 28, 2011. Alvarado was found dead under a truck at 1019 Grinnell St., down the block from Don's Million Dollar Bar.

The Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death came from blunt trauma to the head, likely with a rock found nearby the body.

Tuesday, assistant Monroe County state attorneys Val Winter and Christine Poist continued questioning witnesses, with the trial slated to continue this week. In his opening argument, Winter told jurors that Alvarado was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Police reports say the night of the killing, witnesses at Don's saw Alvarado wearing angel wings and Hedvall was seen in a light-colored suit. Both were costumes for the annual 10-day Fantasy Fest bacchanal.

Winter said Hedvall strangled Alvarado before bashing his head with a 25-pound coral rock. "I want to emphasize again two different types of attacks: The blow to Jonathan's head shattered his skull."

Friday, defense attorney Jason Smith objected to Winter entering into evidence graphic pictures of Alvarado's head wound, calling the photos "unduly prejudicial."

Monroe County Judge Wayne Miller, presiding in Courtroom A of the Freeman Justice Center, overruled Smith but directed Winter not to show the photographs again. But the jurors might be able to look at them again at a later time, perhaps in deliberations.

Smith, along with co-counsels Alan Fowler and Jiulio Margalli, maintain Hedvall's innocence. "He has put his faith in you," Smith told the jury.

"You don't want to compound [Alvarado's death] with another tragedy of convicting an innocent man," Smith said. He pointed out what he called instances of "sloppy, incomplete police work" in describing the state's "circumstantial" case.

"There was a rush to judgment," Smith said. "This occurred during the busiest weak of the year, when law enforcement is stretched to the maximum."

Tuesday, Winter went through detailed testimony related to the testing of DNA evidence. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst said DNA taken from the clothing Hedvall allegedly wore the night of the murder was a match for Alvarado.

Hedvall faces up to life in prison if convicted.

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