Verdict: Guilty in murder of retired schoolteacher


Justice for a retired schoolteacher continues, as a second person responsible for her death was found guilty as charged on all counts, of First Degree Murder, capital felony; Robbery; and Burglary with Battery.

Circuit Judge Terry LaRue sentenced the defendant today to life in prison.

After a three-day trial and approximately five hours of deliberation, co-defendant 31-year-old Gytonia Jean Cheek was found guilty by a jury of six women and six men in Flagler County.

State Attorney R.J. Larizza stated, “Nothing will lessen the tragedy of that night but justice for Myrtle McKinney was served today.”

Fifty-eight-year-old Myrtle McKinney was found bound, gagged, blindfolded, and beaten to death in her Palatka apartment. Large amounts of her blood stained the living room floor and her apartment was ransacked.

On Christmas Day in 2007, the nephew of Myrtle McKinney went to check on his aunt but what he found was a gruesome scene and violent end to his aunt’s life.

One former inmate testified at trial that Cheek told her that she and co-defendant Quritus Lowe, II, “tortured” McKinney and that she beat McKinney with a bottle “until she had a hole in her head.”

Lowe was convicted and sentenced last month to two life sentences plus an additional 30 years for robbery with no parole. Co-defendant Barbara Mundy testified at both Lowe’s and Cheek’s trial that Lowe beat McKinney with a stick and Cheek used a glass bottle.

In December, a jury found Lowe guilty as charged, of First Degree Murder (a capital felony); Burglary of Dwelling with Assault or Battery; and Robbery with a Weapon. Last month, Cheek’s first trial ended with a mistrial because jurors could not reach a unanimous vote and Cheek was retried the beginning of this week.

Co-defendants Melissa Watson and Barbara Mundy were also charged in connection with McKinney’s death and their separate trials will soon follow.

The case was tried by Assistant State Attorneys Mark Johnson and Josh Alexander before Circuit Judge Terry LaRue.

The Putnam County murder case was moved to Flagler County as part of a change in venue motion because of the extensive news coverage in Putnam County.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer


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