ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After days of emotional and disturbing testimony, a jury took less than two hours to convict James Colley Jr. of first-degree murder in the 2015 shooting deaths of his estranged wife and her friend.
Colley, 38, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder, two burglary counts and a count of aggravated stalking.
Colley killed Amanda Colley and Lindy Dobbins on Aug. 27, 2015, during a shooting rampage in the home the couple once shared in the upscale Mura Bella neighborhood of St. Johns County.
Assistant State Attorney Bryan Shorstein said the crime sent shock waves throughout the community.
“They were young professional mothers who leave behind young children,” Shorstein said in a news release. “Colley shot both victims multiple times as they were begging for their lives.”
Loved ones of the victims could be heard crying in the courtroom as the jury read the guilty verdicts.
State Attorney R.J. Larizza acknowledged how painful the trial process can be for family members and friends.
“The facts of this case are as callous and violent as any I have ever witnessed in my professional career,” Larizza said, adding that the state will now move forward with seeking the death penalty against Colley.
The penalty phase will begin Monday. If Colley is not sentenced to death, he will get life in prison without parole.
The Colleys’ children, a 7-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, have been in the custody of one of Amanda Colley’s family members since the murders.
Loved ones of Dobbins, Amanda Colley and shooting rampage survivor Rachel Hendricks, who testified last week, said they are pleased with the verdict but are also anxious for the penalty phase to be over.
Several loved ones have expressed their hope that Colley will be sentenced to death.
The typically quiet and peaceful Mura Bella neighborhood was rocked by the shocking violence of Colley’s deadly rampage.
The Colleys’ former home has remained empty since the murders, with vacancy notices on windows and the front door.
Joe Quinto, who lives just a few houses down, said Wednesday he remembers seeing James Colley play with his children in the cul-de-sac.
“We were so sad when this happened, because, I mean, all the neighbors get along here. We used to have parties. We would go to each other’s house. It was very nice,” said Quinto, who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years. “We’re very sad about the whole situation.”
He said watching the trial this week forced all of the neighbors to relive awful memories.
“We heard the verdict, my wife had tears in her eyes,” Quinto said. “It’s very sad. I’m emotional right now just thinking about it.”
Even once sentencing happens, Quinto said it will take awhile for the neighborhood to move forward and heal.
“It still leaves a little sorrow,” he said. “We’re getting over little by little what happened.”
In three days of damning testimony, witnesses, including two who survived the rampage, described what happened at the Colleys’ home in the upscale Mura Bella neighborhood. Prosecutors said Colley came to the home and opened fire hours after a court hearing about his violation of a restraining order requiring him to stay away from his wife.
Colley’s defense presented a handful of witnesses Tuesday morning, including his sister, Rhonda Colley Boatwright, who testified that she would do anything for her brother, “up to a point.”
In its closing argument Tuesday, the prosecution recounted evidence in the case — witnesses, James Colley’s DNA found on guns, ballistics, crime scene photos and 911 calls.
“He had time to reflect that morning. He had time to change his mind. He didn’t do that. (He had) intent to kill,” Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Dunton told the jury.
Defense attorney Terry Shoemaker then talked about Colley’s contentious marriage, saying Amanda Colley had been stringing her husband along.
“She kept bringing him back in and not allowing him to move on. Just a constant, over and over and over,” he said. “Is it reasonable to think that something happened that led him into that house? I believe it is and I wish I knew what it was.”
In his opening statement last week, Shoemaker told the jury it’s not a question of whether or not Colley killed his wife, but what would lead him to do it. Shoemaker had said Colley was heavily medicated for depression, anxiety and other medical issues and wasn’t himself.
After the prosecution rested Monday afternoon, the defense withdrew its argument of involuntary intoxication, both for the trial and in any future appeal. Circuit Judge Howard Maltz asked Colley directly if he was aware of the impact this could have on the case and he acknowledged his agreement.
Colley did not take the stand during the trial.
By ELIZABETH CAMPBELL