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Mistrial for Man Accused In Replacement Player Slaying

September 29, 1996

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ The murder trial of a man accused of killing an Atlanta Braves replacement player ended Saturday in a mistrial after the jury said it could not reach a verdict.

Circuit Judge Roger Colton declared a mistrial after jurors sent out the second of two notes saying they were deadlocked. No date has been set for Neal Evans’ second trial.

The deadlock came after 19 hours of deliberation, two nights in a hotel, several hours re-reading testimony and a few exasperated notes to the judge.

Neal Evans, 31, of West Palm Beach, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing player David Shotkoski, a 30-year-old pitcher from Illinois, in March 1995.

When the deadlock was announced, Evans was expressionless, as he was through much of the trial.

Shotkoski’s widow, Felicia, who attended every day of the month-long trial with Shotkoski’s family, closed her eyes and sighed.

``I’m disappointed because we all know in our hearts that he’s the one who did it,″ Shotkoski said, holding the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Alexis, in her arms.

Police say Evans, who has been convicted before on burglary and weapons charges, tried to rob Shotkoski while the player went for a walk one evening.

One juror who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Palm Beach Post that jurors initially seemed more likely to acquit Evans but later divided three ways: among acquittal, conviction on first-degree murder and conviction on a lesser charge.

``The people who wanted to convict on first-degree could have been persuaded to convict on a lesser charge, but the people who wanted to acquit couldn’t be persuaded,″ the juror was quoted as saying.

Juror Salvatore Ippolito said most jurors wanted to convict Evans of something less serious than first-degree murder because they believed that Quinton Savage, a witness in the case, might have played some role in Shotkoski’s killing.

Under one scenario considered by jurors, Evans and Savage planned to rob Shotkoski together after watching him take evening walks and noticing that he wore jewelry, Ippolito said.

But other jurors insisted the evidence didn’t clearly place Evans at the murder scene, Ippolito said.

Shotkoski had come to West Palm Beach in the spring of 1995 to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing major league baseball.

The Braves offered a $5,000 reward, matched by the city’s police department. During the trial, the reward money _ to be paid only if Shotkoski’s killer was convicted _ enabled the defense to poke holes in the credibility of the state’s key witnesses.

Ippolito said jurors ``completely disregarded″ the testimony of one state witness and seriously questioned the credibility of another.

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