Coroner: Deaths were homicide in Citrus Park double-murder

Image 1 of 3

After a double murder rocked a Citrus Park neighborhood over four years ago the man accused of it finally goes to trial.

Defendant Jason Burnett is facing two counts of murder. In court Thursday, the jury got to see pictures of the crime scene and the victims and they also got to hear from the defendant through a jailhouse call.

State prosecutors in Hillsborough County say Burnett heard there were drugs, pills, and money at a home on Manhattan Drive in Citrus Park.

So he grabbed a gun, had a friend drive him over, and broke in, prosecutors say.

Three women were inside the home: 52-year-old Nell Mason, her roommate, 56-year-old Fern Giddings, and Mason's 35-year-old daughter, Christine Sotowere.

Mason and Fern Giddings were shot and killed. Sotowere was shot but survived.   

Four years later, Burnett's murder trial is finally underway.

Prosecutors played audio from a jailhouse call of Burnett talking to his girlfriend shortly after the murders.

"That day was the weirdest day, like, I was in autopilot," said Burnett. 

Burnett admits he went to the victims' home that day but the trip wasn't his idea.

"I was actually headed home and Gary goes, 'Let's go to Fern's,' because he wanted a pill. That's what started all of this," said Burnett.

He says Nell Mason didn't like him and often threatened to call the cops on him.

Burnett says things quickly got out of hand when Mason became aggressive and threatening.

"She runs and pulls out two big [expletive] knives from the kitchen and comes at me with them and that's when I pulled the gun," said Burnett. 

He says he had no choice but to defend himself.

Later, the medical examiner took the stand.

The jury was shown pictures of the crime scene and it was later determined the two victims died of multiple gunshot wounds. He called the manner of death homicide.

If convicted of the murders, Burnett faces life in prison.