ORLANDO, FLORIDA — At 1:45 a.m. on October 17, 2015, Sasha Samsudean was trying to get back to her condo after an evening out drinking with friends in downtown Orlando. Witnesses described her as being extremely intoxicated. Sasha shared an Uber with two other young women, back to her condo at Uptown Place. The two women, Julia Goff and Haley Messmore, were concerned about Sasha’s well-being, and waited as she tried to use the keypad to enter Uptown Place. Sasha did not have her key fob, key, ID, or phone, and she was unable to get in.
Before long, Stephen Duxbury, a security guard, approached the three women. They explained Sasha’s predicament and Duxbury advised that he could not let anyone into the building without proof that they were a resident, nor could he allow her to sleep on a couch in the lobby. As they continued to talk, a young male resident opened the door and allowed Sasha in. Instead of challenging her entry into the building, Duxbury continued talking with Goff and Messmore, who expressed their concern to Duxbury as to how Sasha would get into her unit without a key. The women eventually left for their own building.
In his statements to the police, Duxbury said that he then went looking for Sasha. The jury saw CCTV video that showed Sasha wandering around the inside of the building as she tried to find her apartment. The video showed Duxbury following her for at least thirty minutes. One eyewitness testified that Duxbury was trailing a short distance behind an obviously-intoxicated Sasha, rather than actually walking with her.
Duxbury later told police that Sasha, at some point, tried to enter her apartment by using a digital lock on her door, but she was not able to recall the code. She told him that her key fob was in her car, so Duxbury started to go with her to the garage. However, Duxbury related that Sasha suddenly recalled the code and headed back toward her apartment; Duxbury said he left her alone at that point. When he passed by her door later, he did not see her.
Sasha’s friends became concerned when they were unable to contact her and they called the police, who eventually agreed to do a well-being check. Although off-duty, Duxbury approached the police and Sasha’s friends, and stated that he knew who they were concerned about—before anybody told him whether the person was male or female, or her name.
Police gained access to Sasha’s apartment and entered. Initially, they saw no sign of a struggle or any criminal activity, but before long, they discovered Sasha, dead, in her bed, wrapped in a comforter. She smelled of bleach and there were signs around her consistent with somebody attempting to remove physical evidence.
Sasha’s shirt and bra had been ripped open in front. Her pants and underwear had been forcefully removed, leaving abrasions; those items of clothing were never recovered.(1) The medical examiner (“M.E.”) found evidence of blunt trauma to Sasha’s head, contusions on her upper body as though she had been repeatedly punched, defensive wounds on her arms, and other contusions and abrasions consistent with forceful restraint. There was no direct evidence of intercourse, but the M.E. discovered abrasions that were consistent with somebody attempting to have sex with Sasha.
The M.E. testified that Sasha’s cause of death was asphyxiation due to manual strangulation, and her death was ruled a homicide.
Duxbury completed his usual daily report, in which he mentioned his encounter with Sasha. He did not mention the length of time that he followed her around, nor report that he had removed bags of trash from an inside hallway. After being advised of his Miranda rights, Duxbury steadfastly maintained that he had never been in Sasha’s apartment. Investigators found a print from his right thumb in her bathroom and a print from his left thumb on the nightstand in her bedroom. Furthermore, his DNA was found on Sasha’s breasts.
There were shoeprints in Samsudean’s apartment, including several that generally matched a pair of shoes recovered from Duxbury’s home. A police technician searched Duxbury’s smartphone and determined that someone had done an internet search using that phone, trying to learn how to override a Kwikset digital lock—the type of lock on Sasha’s door. That search was performed around 5:00 a.m., which coincided with the ninety-minute time period during which Duxbury is not seen on any video, nor his location revealed by any other security-related patrol data.
(1) Security video showed Duxbury carrying bags of trash from the building into the garage where (a) his car was parked, and (b) a dumpster was located. It was unusual for security to remove trash from the building, and the length of time after Duxbury entered the garage led the State to suggest that Duxbury may have put the bags in his car and not in the dumpster.