Teen in Jacksonville convicted in death of Gainesville man

Published: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.

A teen has been convicted in Jacksonville in the fatal 2010 carjacking of an 83-year-old Gainesville man who was leaving the Jacksonville International Airport.

A Duval County jury found 19-year-old Raymond Matthew Austin Jr. guilty on Thursday of first-degree murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. He faces a life sentence.

Authorities said Austin — along with co-defendants 36-year-old Shanda Nedreia Merritt, 19-year-old Corey Harrington and 19-year-old Marquavious Avery — strangled and shot Charles R. Soukup in late October 2010 before dumping his body in a nearby wooded area.

Merritt is awaiting trial, while Harrington and Avery have already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, kidnapping and armed robbery.

Austin is already serving 45 years for the attempted murder of Merritt’s ex-boyfriend, then-37-year-old Carl Davis, a day after the attack on Soukup.

Soukup, who lived in the Northwood Pines subdivision in Gainesville at the time he made the trip to Jacksonville, was trying to get to Ohio to see his ailing twin brother but had rented a Jeep at the Jacksonville airport.

Soukup apparently was planning to drive back to Gainesville after growing tired of waiting to get on a standby flight. Authorities said Soukup was killed by Austin, who stole the Jeep that Soukup had rented.

Soukup’s body was recovered near the airport in the 1600 block of Owens Road, the same place where investigators said it appeared Soukup was killed and the Jeep was stolen shortly after he rented it.

Soukup’s daughter, Doreen Walsh, told The Sun in late 2010 that her husband, Edward Walsh, dropped Soukup off at the airport at about 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, 2010.

Soukup planned to fly standby to Dallas to meet another daughter, Patty Holloway, who made the flight arrangements.

After spending a night in Dallas with Holloway, she and Soukup planned to fly together to Cleveland to see Soukup’s only living sibling, his fraternal twin, Harry.

Unable to get a seat on the plane in Jacksonville, Soukup rented a 2010 silver Jeep Liberty at the airport around 11 a.m. He told the rental agent who helped him that he was returning to his Gainesville home.

Investigators said he met Austin, Merritt, Harrington and Avery sometime after that and was killed, but officials would not say exactly where or when Soukup encountered the trio.

The Jeep was recovered in the 3100 block of Myrtle Avenue.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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