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Manatee man’s murder trial underway

MANATEE — A murder trial for a man accused of stabbing to death a man holding a baby in a Manatee parking lot last year has begun, with opening statements this morning.

Carlos Viera, 31, is accused of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 37-year-old William Howery on Jan. 29, 2009, outside his girlfriend’s place of employment in the 1200 block of Whitfield Avenue.

Howery was holding his 15-month-old son in his arms at the time Viera stabbed him in the chest, Assistant State Attorney Spencer Rasnake said in opening arguments this morning.

Viera’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Peter Belmont, conceded that his client stabbed Howery, but said he did so in defense of his wife, whom Howery had threatened during an argument. Viera had never met Howery, Belmont said.

Rasnake said Howery’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his child, Kira Schouten, had been working at Royal Relaxation, a store in which women in lingerie sell aroma therapy products, Schouten testified.

Schouten testified that Howery had called the store repeatedly throughout the day angry, trying to get her to leave. He also threatened Viera’s wife, Celeina Viera, who also worked at Royal Relaxation, Belmont said.

Howery eventually came to the store and got into an argument with Celeina Viera, who screamed for help because she feared he would attack her. Carlos Viera came from a motel nearby where the couple had been living, and stabbed Howery in defense of his wife, Belmont told jurors.

Rasnake argued there is no evidence Howery threatened Celeina Viera, only that he argued verbally with her, and he never saw Carlos Viera coming. But Belmont portrayed Howery as an angry man poised to strike Celeina Viera as her husband arrived.

“He does what I submit a reasonable husband would do. He comes to the aid of his wife,” Belmont said.