Crime

Man beat woman in a jealous rage, cops say. Eight days later, she was shot to death

Arrest made in Palmetto homicide

Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler gives an update on a recent homicide in Palmetto.
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Palmetto Police Chief Scott Tyler gives an update on a recent homicide in Palmetto.

A Palmetto woman police say was shot multiple times by her recent ex-boyfriend after he broke into her home early Sunday morning, was not the first woman to fear for her life when he was in a jealous rage.

Flozell Murell III’s ex-fiancee told detectives she was afraid he would kill her if he found her. She had escaped from their home after he beat her and held her against her will in November 2016, court records show.

Less three months after being released from jail in that case, Murrell was accused of beating his most recent ex-girlfriend, 41-year-old Stephanie McNabb, after another jealous rage.

Murrell is now charged with killing McNabb early Sunday.

During Murrell’s first appearance in court Monday, McNabb’s step-father said the abuse had been going on for more than 20 years.

“This horrific act is not because of any drugs. It is not because of any temporary insanity. It’s because of the evil that lurks in this man’s heart that I have witnessed for decades,” Kerry Kurz said.

Kurz fought back tears as he addressed the court on behalf of his family.

“The only thing he has ever cared about was himself, and controlling Stephanie. And when she had finally had enough, he killed her in cold blood,” Kurz said.

McNabb was semi-conscious when Palmetto police officers found her with several gunshot wounds in the chest in her home in the 1100 block of 17th Avenue West, according to Chief of Police Scott Tyler. Murrell had forced his way into the house, police said.

“She was able to talk to the officers on the scene for a little bit before she was rushed to the hospital,” Tylers said. “She went into surgery at Blake Medical Center. They tried to save her life, but they couldn’t.”

Detectives were able to quickly identify Murrell as their suspect, according to Tyler, after they spoke with everyone else in the home, which included a child who Murrell shared with the victim. Thanks to the cooperation of those in the home and Murrell’s family and tips from the public, police were able to find Murrell within a couple hours.

He denied being involved in the incident during an interview with police, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Around 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Murrell had asked another woman to go for a drive in her vehicle, according to the affidavit. They made multiple stops, alternating between driving and being a passenger.

Murrell reportedly threatened her, made her hand over her cell phone at gunpoint, and hit her. He dropped the woman off around 12:30 p.m. and took her car.

Around 1 a.m., a man and a woman inside McNabb’s home on 17th Avenue West woke up to the sound of multiple gunshots.

The man said Murrell approached him in his room with a gun. The two fought over the gun, according to the affidavit. During the struggle, the man said Murrell hit him in the head with the gun and tried to shoot him.

Murrell ran from the home but was later arrested. He being held without bond at the Manatee County jail and is charged with murder, attempted murder, burglary, assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Days before McNabb’s death, deputies were already looking for Murrell.

He was wanted in connection with a Feb. 2 incident in which Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies say he attacked McNabb. Warrants for his arrest on charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, domestic battery by strangulation and violation of injunction were issued Feb. 5 but his whereabouts were not known until after McNabb was shot, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Feb. 2, McNabb told deputies that she and Murrell, who had recently been released from jail, went to a club in Sarasota. About 1 a.m., they stopped at a convenience store in the 6200 block of U.S. 301 North. McNabb went inside while Murrell stayed in the car.

When McNabb returned to the car, she said Murrell accused her of flirting at the club. He grabbed her head, punched her and pistol-whipped her as they traveled north on Interstate 75, according to the sheriff’s office.

They drove to Interstate 4, then back to Interstate 275 before stopping at a motel near I-75 and State Road 64 where he held her against her will, according to the sheriff’s office.

At some point they left the motel for a relative’s home in Palmetto. When McNabb told family what happened, Murrell drove to Sugar Mill Lakes, where a family member lives.

Deputies noted McNabb had a swollen eye and cuts on her fingers along with a bump behind her ear. She was treated at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Violent history repeated

Murrell’s violent rage was set off in November 2016 when he accused his ex-fiancee of cheating on him with their neighbor. The beating left the woman with at least one broken rib.

According to court records, Murrell snatched her cell phone from her and began to send text messages to that neighbor making the accusations. Murrell then ripped her engagement finger off her finger, climbed on top of her and began hitting her.

He started strangling her to the point that she nearly blacked out. She tried to break free from Murrell, even as he held a pillow over her face, until she passed out. When she regained consciousness, she said Murrell was still on top of her and he began punching her in the ribs and head including her face.

“He hit her so hard and so many times that he knocked her unconscious,” an arrest report states. “(She) did not remember anything else until she woke up several hours later in the morning. (She) was beaten so badly that she could not move.”

Murrell stayed home from work that day, to make sure she didn’t go anywhere, taking her cell phone and car keys. He threatened her if she told anyone or went to the police. Even when he eventually went back to work, he would randomly come home to make sure she was still there.

It took 12 days before she had the strength and courage to escape on a day when she knew he wouldn’t be able to leave work to check on her. She was so afraid that he would find her and kill her that she moved to another part of the state, taking all of her belongings with her.

According to court records, Murrell has been previously convicted of battery, aggravated assault, burglary, grand theft, drug possession and violation of a domestic injunction for repeat violence.

In 2006, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading no contest to attempted aggravated child abuse in a case in which he was charged with molesting another ex-girlfriend’s daughter. According to that arrest report, after being confronted by the girl’s mother, Murrell said it would not be a good idea to call police, took all the phones and slept on the floor blocking the door so the woman and her daughter were unable to leave without waking him.

Murrell was released from the Florida Department of Corrections in June of 2015 after serving nine years of his sentence. He was then placed on sex offender probation.

If you or someone you care about may be experiencing abuse, HOPE Family Services in Bradenton has a 24-hour emergency help line available at 941-755-6805 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Both also offer live chats on their websites.

Whether someone has asked you for help or you sense someone is in distress, here are some general guidelines to help support possible victims of abuse, be it physical, emotional, sexual, psychological or financial.

Sara Nealeigh covers breaking stories and other real-time news across Manatee County and Florida for the Bradenton Herald. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in journalism and worked as a reporter for a local newspaper in Ohio before moving to Bradenton in 2016.


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