STUART — More than three years after a stabbing during a quarrel over stolen money, a jury convicted a Stuart man of manslaughter with a weapon in the death of Jeremy James Uber of Jensen Beach.
Robert Michael Magneson, 43, had been tried for second-degree murder, but in representing himself in a Martin County courtroom, he convinced the jury to convict him of the lesser charge Friday.
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Police said on March 13, 2019, Robert Michael Magneson, 42, formerly of the 1600 block of Northeast Seneca Avenue, was sitting in his rental car with Uber while parked at the Lowe’s at 3629 Southeast Federal Highway.
Based on witness testimony and surveilled phone calls with Magneson, police determined he suspected Uber had stolen money from a Wells Fargo bank envelop that originally contained $500 as he exited Magneson’s rental car.
According to an arrest affidavit and statements Magneson’s girlfriend later provided to Stuart police, he had asked Uber to help him search his car for the missing money.
Investigators reported that Magneson told his girlfriend “while (Uber) was bent forward looking for the envelop, Magneson took his knife and stabbed (Uber) in the neck and head because he wasn’t going to let someone treat him like that and ‘just rob him and get away with it.’”
Records show Stuart Police found Uber lying in the roadway, unresponsive with stab wounds to his head and chest.
Magneson, investigators noted, told his girlfriend when he left Uber, he wasn’t sure if he was dead, and on his way driving to Jensen Beach, he discarded the knife and Uber’s cell phone.
Besides the controlled phone calls, Stuart police used data from a license plate scanner at Interstate 95 and Kanner Highway and cell phone forensics to determine Magneson’s whereabouts that evening.
Magneson has been held at the Martin County Jail since his arrest a day after the killing, records show.
Port St. Lucie Attorney Adrienne Bucchi had been representing Magneson on the case. The jury was selected Oct. 31, and a verdict was returned Nov. 4, Assistant State Attorney David Lustgarten.
He called the verdict “a compromise.”
“I certainly respect their decision,” Lustgarten said. “Given the facts, it is understandable how they could have reached that verdict. The state, of course, felt it had sufficient proof to show this was a second-degree murder.”
Bucchi said Magneson chose to represent himself after she made an opening statement. The case she had prepared for the trial was that Magneson had acted in self-defense when he stabbed Uber and there was no intent to kill him.
“The jury had a lot to consider,” Bucchi said.
She said Magneson did “quite well” in representing himself at trial.
“The jury likes to hear from the defendant,” she added.
At his Dec. 15 sentencing, Magneson faces up to 30 years in prison for manslaughter with a weapon.
But he also faces a possible enhanced sentence of life in prison because of his habitual criminal record, Bucchi said.
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On July 4, corrections officials said Magneson attacked another inmate, slashing his throat with a makeshift weapon made from a razor blade and a toothbrush. The attack, in a common area of the jail, was captured on surveillance video. In the aftermath, Magneson appears on video walking to a restroom, tossing something in a toilet and washing his hands at a sink, according to the affidavit.
Magneson faces a count of attempted first-degree murder with a weapon after initially being charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The other inmate was treated with stitches to his neck, head and thumb, the affidavit states.
Information on the jailhouse charge was not shared with the jury for the murder trial, Bucchi said.