William Joseph Cormier III
Sean Dugas, seen here during an assignment for the Pensacola News Journal, was reported missing in September. Police suspect Dugas is the man found buried in Georgia on Monday.
PENSACOLA, Florida (PNJ) - A jury deliberated less than two hours before finding William Cormier III guilty of murdering a Florida reporter despite his claims that identical twin brother had been the mastermind in the crime.
The jury found Cormier, 32, guilty of bludgeoning Sean Dugas to death on Aug. 31, 2012, in his home with a hammer, burying the body in a plastic bin in his father's back yard and selling Dugas' valuable collection of Magic: The Gathering trading cards. Investigators said Cormier III and his twin, Christopher, then conspired to remove the body for burial in Winder, Ga.
See Also: Friendship, money, greed meet in 'Magic: The Gathering'
Dugas was a reporter for the Pensacola News Journal, which is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., the parent company of USA TODAY.
Judge Terry Terrell sentenced Cormier III to life in prison without parole.
Christopher Cormier was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of being an accessory to the robbery and murder of Dugas.
Before sentencing, family members addressed Terrell, sharing fond memories about Dugas, who was a reporter for the News Journal for five years, and asked the judge to sentence each to the maximum sentence.
During the closing arguments of the four-day trial Thursday, Assistant State Attorney Bridgette Jensen described William Cormier III as broke, desperate, and above everything else, greedy.
"He took everything (Sean) had," Jensen said. "He took his spoons, he took his furniture, he took his Magic cards, and most importantly, he took his life."
Jensen said that shortly after Cormier bludgeoned Dugas to death, he went to a nearby hobby shop and traded some of Dugas' Magic cards for cash."He sold (Sean's) own cards to buy that cheap plastic coffin to put Sean's body in," Jensen said to the jury.
In the days following Dugas' death, the Cormier brothers reportedly emptied his home of everything except a broken TV. In the following weeks, the twins sold thousands of dollars worth of the trading cards in Georgia and Tennessee.Surveillance footage from Wal-Marts in Pensacola, a Home Depot in Georgia and U-Haul facilities in both locations showed Cormier III buying a variety of items associated with the crime.
The list of purchases included the container Dugas was buried in, a tarp, bags of concrete, Odor-Rid, dust masks and more than a dozen air fresheners.
All the items were excavated from the home of the twins' father in Winder, Ga., along with Dugas' body on Oct. 8, 2012.
An autopsy revealed that Dugas had been killed by blunt force trauma from multiple hammer blows to the head.
Cormier, who testified in his own defense Wednesday, said that his brother claimed to be in contact with Dugas throughout the process. He said that he believed that anytime they moved, sold or disposed of anything, it was done at Dugas' instruction.
Cormier's defense Attorney Richard Currey said that the defendant felt that he had no reason to question his twin.
"He didn't think anything of it," Currey said. "He trusted his brother."
Currey argued that Cormier's actions willingness to haggle over the price of every Magic card he sold wasn't consistent with the actions of a thief.
"(Cormier) wasn't trying to unload them," Currey said. "He wasn't trying to get cash and get out quick. As he told you, he thought he was selling them for a friend."
Currey admitted that that much of the evidence pointed to William Cormier as being the more active sibling in arranging sales, storage and travel arrangements. However, he said that without witnesses to the actual murder, that evidence could only be considered circumstantial.
"It's possible he did it," Currey said. "Heck, it's even likely he did it...But that's not proof beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt."
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