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Two Crewman Go On Trial For Mutiny, Murder On High Seas

November 23, 1987

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Two young shrimpboat crewmen went on trial Monday for mutiny and murder in the shipboard slaying of their vessel’s captain and assault on the first mate.

The body of the master, Philip Roush, 28, has never been found, but first mate Willie Charpentier, 21, survived a beating and more than 12 hours in shark-infested Atlantic waters off Florida to tell his story to federal authorities.

Billy Gossett Jr., 24, and William Rector, 21, are accused of pummelling the captain with a ballpeen hammer and Charpentier with a metal pry bar before Charpentier managed to jump overboard on the night of July 29, federal prosecutor Joe Magri said in his opening statement.

The crime took place about 26 miles offshore during a fishing trip, he said.

Charpentier will testify that he saw Gossett smash Roush on the head with the hammer at least three times before Gossett and Rector hoisted him up and overboard with a rope, the prosecutor said.

The cook of the 65-foot shrimper, Maria Barnes, will testify that Gossett and Rector told her: ″We just hijacked the boat,″ Magri said. ″They told her they had pushed the captain and first mate off the boat, but they didn’t tell her about the attack.″

Ms. Barnes told the Coast Guard and FBI that she was in the boat’s pilothouse watching television and had heard or seen nothing of the attack.

Charpentier spent the night in the ocean, warding off sharks, before a couple aboard another vessel spotted him and radioed the Coast Guard the next morning.

He was picked up by a rescue helicopter from Patrick Air Force Base about 12 hours after the attack.

The prosecutor said that in the meantime, Gossett and Rector had radioed the Coast Guard and reported that the captain and first mate evidently fell overboard while the others slept.

Gossett and Rector are each charged with first-degree murder and felony murder in the slaying of Roush, assault with intent to murder Charpentier, mutiny and conspiracy.

U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp told jurors they would be taken to Port Canaveral, just south of the Kennedy Space Center, on Wednesday to see the vessel and a partial reenactment of the crime by prosecutors.

The victims and defendants are all from the Tampa area. Roush and Charpentier had hired the other three as crewmembers just before a two-week shrimping trip.

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