GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Closing arguments are expected to get underway today in the capital murder trial of Timothy Ronk. The jury could deliver a verdict as early as this afternoon.
The prosecution rested its case against capital murder suspect Timothy Ronk just before 2:00 Wednesday afternoon. Ronk did not to take the stand in his defense.
He's accused of stabbing 37-year-old Michelle Craite then setting her home on fire in August 2008. The defendant was living with Craite at the time of her death.
Dr. Paul McGarry, the doctor who performed the autopsy on Michelle Craite testified the woman likely suffered a painful death. McGarry told the jury his autopsy found multiple stab wounds. He said Craite's body was charred from the fire. The doctor said Craite had burning and blistering on the lining of her mouth and respiratory track, signs she had inhaled burning fumes from fire.
"I would expect her to be having breathing trouble, incapacitated, bleeding profusely internally, but still be able to feel pain and her body being burned," McGarry said.
Prosecutors contend that testimony could be vital in proving a capital murder charge.
Ronk's defense attorney questioned McGarry's conclusion saying he could not be sure Craite was still alive and conscious as the fire broke out.
Biloxi police detective Chris DeBack also testified Wednesday. He interviewed Ronk following his arrest.
DeBack told the court, before Craite was murdered, he admitted to taking a number of items from her home including a television, X-box 360 and laptop computer. According to the investigator, Ronk pawned some of the items and gave others to a new girlfriend Heather Hindall.
Hindall told jurors she met Ronk over the internet in July, 2008 through a website called yearbook.com. The mother of two is 27 and lives in Jacksonville, Florida.
During her testimony, Hindall admitted she talked with Ronk online and on the phone frequently. She said Ronk told her Craite was a roommate. The woman got emotional during parts of her testimony and had to stop a few times to compose herself.
Hindall said the friendship turned into "falling head over heels with each other." They talked, she said, about living together and getting married.
The same day as the murder, Hindall said Ronk showed up at her home in Jacksonville, Florida, around 6:00 p.m. She said that night, Ronk proposed to her with a ring. Ronk took Hindall and her two children out to dinner, she says, and later bought toys for her children.
She said the next day, as they were going to a TJ Maxx in Jacksonville, Florida, they were rushed by US Marshals.
Hindall said Ronk wrote her a letter following his arrest where he confessed to Craite's murder.
In the letter, Ronk said he got into an argument with Craite. The argument began after Ronk told Craite he was leaving her to be with Hindall.
Ronk also wrote about how he killed Craite. He said during the argument Craite was holding a knife. At some point, he grabbed the knife after Craite threatened to get a gun. He stabbed her, poured gasoline on the murder scene and set it on fire.
Ronk went on to say, he used Craite's money to buy the engagement ring he gave Hindall. Prosecutors presented evidence of receipts and banks records showing it was the same day as the murder.
Prosecutors hope to use Hindall's testimony to create a timeline from the time they say Ronk stabbed Michelle Craite in her Biloxi home, set that Timber Ridge Lane property on fire, used her credit card to make purchases like the ring, and then arrived in Florida.
As soon as the jury is done deliberating and announces a verdict, we'll have it for you on WLOX.com. And later in the day, we'll hear from friends and family members of the victim.