TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - After a week of testimony and nearly 12 hours of deliberations, a jury of her peers has found Nicole Nachtman guilty of murdering her mother and stepfather back in August 2015.
Immediately after the verdict was read, early Saturday morning, the judge sentenced Nachtman to life in prison.
The former FSU student stood trial for killing her mother and stepfather at their home in Carrollwood, Florida. Prosecutors successfully argued Nachtman knew right from wrong when she drove from her school in Tallahassee to her mother and stepfather's home and killed them.
Prosecutors said neighbors heard the screams of Nachtman’s mother, Myriam Dienes. They say Nachtman killed her to avoid admitting she hadn't secured housing back at school. Instead of telling her mother the truth, prosecutors said Nachtman hatched a plot to kill.
Prosecutors said she killed her stepfather, Robert Dienes, first and tried to clean up the crime scene before her mom got home. Then she shot her mom in the driveway.
Nachtman's neighbors testified they heard the gunshots and screams and saw a shadowy figure running from the area.
“There is a dead body on the driveway, laying flat-faced on the ground,” a neighbor can be heard telling a 911 operator in a recording played for the jury.
Neighbor Westley Roe said he heard gunshots and told the jury what he saw.
“I kind of heard, like, a scream. It wasn’t a kid scream. It was a scream of agony or disbelief,” Roe told the jury.
Nachtman's attorney's mounted an insanity defense. They argued she killed them because she was afraid an overbearing mother who she believed was going to kill her. Her defense said Nachtman was in a psychotic state, heard voices, and didn’t know right from wrong when she pulled the trigger.
Attorney Dana Herce-Fulgueira told the jury Nachtman’s mother would refer to her daughter as a disgrace.
“She constantly focused on Nicole’s weight. She fat-shamed her. Made her get liposuction,” Herce-Fulgueira said.
Nachtman's brother, Joseph Carey, meanwhile, testified his sister confessed to the murders in a whisper. Later, in a jailhouse visit with her brother, Nachtman laughed, making jokes about him being her favorite superhero.
In an interview with police, she wanted to talk about the Disney movie “Frozen” and the snow queen, Elsa.
Both sides agreed Nachtman's behavior was bizarre but disagreed on whether it added up to insanity.
After a week of testimony, the jury began deliberating around 1 p.m. Friday.
Just after midnight Saturday, lawyers and the defendant were called to the courtroom. It appeared the prosecution expressed concerns about the length of time jurors were in deliberations.
The prosecutor requested the judge call the jury in to read them the Allen Charge, which can be given when a jury indicates it is deadlocked. The judge told the prosecutor he sent the bailiff to check on the jury 30 minutes prior and all seemed to be in order. Seemingly confused by the prosecution's request, the judge said the jury should be allowed to continue deliberating.
Less than an hour later, the jury returned its verdicts. Nachtman was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. Immediately after the verdict was read and the jury was released, the judge sentenced Nachtman to life in prison.