A Navarre resident who was charged with shooting Nelson “Rivers” Starkey, a then 21-year-old University of Alabama student, inside of his home on Oct. 30 last year was found not guilty by reason of self-defense by a Santa Rosa County jury last week.
The verdict was handed to the Navarre resident, John Marshall Fitzgerald at the Santa Rosa County Courthouse last Friday. The jury essentially cleared Fitzgerald of all 3 charges placed upon him, which included second degree Attempted Murder, Aggravated Assault and Aggravated Battery. The jury cleared him of all of the charges based on the Stand Your Ground Law, which states that individuals have the right to defend themselves inside of their homes through the use of deadly force.
This was the second time Fitzgerald stood trial for the shooting of Starkey, which took place in the Holley-by-the-Sea subdivision. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald stood trial over the shootings, but the trial resulted in a hung jury.
The shooting took place at Fitzgerald’s home at the 2200 block of Valley Road in Holley-by-the-Sea the night of Oct. 30, 2015. Fitzgerald’s nephew, Thomas Darby and his friend Starkey were staying at the house on vacation when the incident took place, according to the original Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office arrest report.
All three of the men were drinking inside of the home that night when an argument ensued between Starkey and Fitzgerald. The argument became heated and Fitzgerald eventually asked Starkey and his nephew to leave the house.
After asking the men to leave, Starkey threatened to beat up Fitzgerald, at which point the Navarre resident retrieved his pistol from one of the rooms inside of the home and threatened to kill Starkey and Darby if they didn’t leave the residence.
Darby left the house after being confronted with the weapon, but Starkey stayed inside of the home where he was eventually led to the front door of the home by Fitzgerald. While at the front door, Starkey turned around and attempted to wrestle the gun out of Fitzgerald’s hand at which point the gun discharged. A total of three bullets struck Starkey during the struggle, according to the report.
Two of the bullets struck Starkey in the head and he suffered an additional gun shot to his right arm and thigh. Since the incident, Starkey has been hospitalized and ultimately suffered permanent brain damage.
Dispatch received a call from the home at 8:45 p.m. that night and the caller hung up. Dispatch eventually traced the call to Fitzgerald’s residence and when a deputy arrived on scene, the saw Fitzgerald and Starkey on the front porch.
Starkey was later transported to Holley-Navarre Fire Station 41 where he was air lifted via LifeGuard Air Ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital.
Starkey was 10 days away from turning 22 when the incident took place.
Fitzgerald was immediately arrested at the scene after officers found him crouched over Starkey with blood all over his clothing and charged with Attempted Murder and Aggravated Assault With a Deadly Weapon Without Intent to Kill.