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St. Cloud Man Indicted for Girlfriends's Death at Marriott

A man indicted in his girlfriend's fatal New Year's Eve fall from a 16th floor hotel balcony argued with the woman in public shortly before her death, according to an affidavit for his arrest.

Jonathan Justin Speegle, 28, of St. Cloud, was at the High Velocity bar at Marriott World Center late Dec. 30 with girlfriend Nichole Hammond, 30, when a bartender overheard the dispute, the affidavit said. About 30 minutes later, Speegle called 911 to say Hammond had gone over the railing of their hotel room balcony.

Speegle was indicted Tuesday on as second-degree murder charge in the single mother's death and later was arrested. He was originally arrested Jan. 23 in Lawton, Okla., then released on $50,000 bail. He pleaded not guilty, and has not said he killed Hammond.

Mark NeJame, Speegle's attorney, said the case is purely circumstantial, and he's surprised any charges were brought in the case.
"There's no greater proof or likelihood that he pushed her then that she fell or jumped or lost her balance," NeJame said.

NeJame was also surprised his client was re-arrested when a judge had already granted Speegle bail.

"It was a mistake," NeJame said.

Deputies said Speegle went to Lawton to flee prosecution, although one of his attorneys maintained he was there to be close to relatives.

Speegle, called "Justin" by friends, told three different versions of what took place when Hammond fell Dec 31 about 12:20 a.m., according to the affidavit. In a recorded statement, he told deputies they were standing on the balcony smoking cigarettes and enjoying the view when he decided to go indoors to use the restroom.

"Be careful," he said he told her, according to deputies. As he walked away, Speegle heard a scream, he told deputies. He turned around and she was gone.

Speegle told family members he heard the scream while he was in the bathroom, and a neighbor that he heard it as he walked toward the balcony, according to the affidavit.

The balcony was about 3 feet, 7 inches high. Hammond stood about 5-1. A hotel guest in a nearby room heard Hammond scream before she hit the metal flashing on the balcony and fell to her death, the affidavit states.

"The only way in which Ms. Hammond could have gone over the railing was by the hand of Mr. Speegle," the affidavit states.

Speegle denied he argued with this girlfriend that night.

Friends and co-workers described the relationship between Speegle and Hammond top deputies as tumultuous. They often fought over petty things, and he berated her in front of other people. They argued "violently," according to the affidavit. Speegle has no prior arrests for violent acts.

Tesha Douglas, Speegle's former girlfriend, wrote in a letter submitted in support of his release on bail that he "was very supportive" during their 4-year relationship.

"I always felt safe with Justin and knew that he would never let anything happen to me," Douglas said.

Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

Source: Orlando Sentinel

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