First-degree murder defendant Latoya Korren Jordan spent most of her three-day trial watching quietly, looking down and writing, expressing no emotion.
On Friday, when a St. Johns County, Fla. jury returned a guilty verdict in the death of Daniel Stuart Somerson, Jordan, formerly of Culpeper, asked to be sentenced right away.
Somerson, 53, died in June 2011 after being stabbed and sliced at more than 30 times. His badly decomposed body was discovered inside his Florida home on July 8, 2011.
St. Johns County Court Judge Michael Traynor sentenced Jordan, now 26, to spend the rest of her natural life in prison, without the possibility of parole, for murdering the Fruit Cove, Fla. man.
Before reaching a verdict Friday, the Florida jury deliberated for about an hour before asking to hear part of Jordan’s recorded confession again, then resumed deliberations for about another 80 minutes.
Testimony laid out the killing of a man who was described as a recluse, whose parents were deceased and who was dedicated to finding the love of his life on Craigslist, a popular online website featuring advertisements for sale, personals, employment, services and discussion forums.
Somerson kept a surveillance system at his home, which was partially masked by a wall of bamboo at the corner of Popolee Road.
He brought Jordan to his home in May 2011 after the two met on Craigslist. Jordan told a detective she stayed with Somerson for four days before she killed him. She explained he was looking for love and she wasn’t interested. He was going to kick her out, and she did not want to be homeless.
Then she stabbed him while he was in bed, followed him to the kitchen as he fled to keep him from getting to the phone, and continued to stab him and ignored his request to call police.
“Because of the cold-blooded determination of this defendant, you saw the last photos that were ever taken of Daniel Somerson,” said St. Johns County Assistant State Attorney Kelsey Bledsoe during the state’s closing argument.
The only photos of Somerson presented during the trial were of his body, which was found weeks after the murder rolled up in a carpet. The photos were used during testimony by the Florida District medical examiner, who pointed out numerous stab wounds and described the depth and severity of the wounds. The state pressed the evidence of a premeditated murder.
Jordan followed Somerson and even got a second knife during the attack. She spent weeks cleaning up the home and aside from the body left behind little more than some traces of possible blood noticed by crime scene technicians and a fingerprint on an Oxyclean container.
Jordan turned down the temperature in the home and cut the cords to the recording device on the home’s surveillance system and threw it in the garbage before leaving.
“And what we have here is a conscious decision to kill Mr. Somerson,” Bledsoe told the jury.
Jordan was also found guilty of grand theft and burglary with assault or battery because she committed the crime while in his home. Burglary was proved by showing Jordan had permission to enter, but remained in the home with the intent to do violence to Somerson.
Jordan’s defense Attorney Michael Nielsen called the burglary charge “a hoax” and a “throw in.”
Nielsen said there was a lack of physical evidence in the state’s case and Jordan said she “snapped,” and that evidence supported it was not premeditated.
Justice for Somerson
After Somerson’s death, Jordan had lived with several other men she met online and they were not harmed.
“They’re alive, unlike Mr. Somerson,” Nielsen said.
“There was something different about Mr. Somerson and how he treated her,” Nielsen said.
Jordan had said Somerson wanted a romantic relationship and then asked her to leave when she would not reciprocate. So he forced her out.
“She said ‘he was going to throw her out for not having sex,’” Nielsen said.
In the state’s rebuttal, Florida Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis played parts of Jordan’s confession and pointed to several times where Jordan showed premeditation.
“‘You don’t know what it is to kill someone on purpose in a criminal way’ — Not my words, ladies and gentlemen, the words of the defense sitting right here after she ... killed and murdered Daniel Somerson in his home,” Lewis said. “The last 10 to 15 minutes of Daniel Somerson’s life was the most horrific nightmare anybody could imagine.”
Lewis said there was no question about premeditation and there were multiple times when she had time to think about what she was doing.
“She had 30 times where she plunged a knife into Mr. Somerson,” Lewis said.
She didn’t want to be put out on the street and she had to take care of it, Lewis said using Jordan’s own words.
“Her words convict her, ladies and gentlemen,” Lewis told the jury. “It’s time for Daniel Somerson to have justice.”
While living in Culpeper, Jordan was convicted of assaulting her older adopted brother in October 2010.
She was charged with assault and battery of a family member stemming from an incident that took place at 1044 Virginia Avenue in the Redwood Lakes subdivision in Culpeper on Oct. 20, 2010. For the assault and battery charge — a class 1 misdemeanor — Jordan was ordered to submit to random urine screening, attend anger management classes and avoid violent contact with the victim, her brother Iven Justice Jordan, now 27. The Fairfax native also faced a contempt of court warrant for failure to appear in Culpeper County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in April 2011. Jordan alerted Culpeper court officials about her inability to make a required court appearance in March 2011. “I would like to ask for a continuance for case No. A12130-01 due to transportation issues I am unfortunately having this week,” wrote Jordan in a handwritten letter faxed to Culpeper officials on March 14, 2011. “I currently reside in Sterling, Va. and I cannot make my set court date, which is on March 15, 2011. I know this is short notice and I am truly sorry for that, I hope that you and the court can understand my situation.”
Reached by phone, her father Earl Jordan declined to comment.
Star-Exponent reporter Rhonda Simmons contributed to this story.