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Jury renders stunning verdict in first-degree murder trial

La Plata, MD - Despite hundreds of pieces of evidence and scathing testimony to the contrary, a Charles County Circuit Court jury found Bruce Matthew Lyles Jr., 29 of Waldorf, not guilty on first-degree murder charges Friday, April 3 before Judge Amy J. Bragunier.

Eleven women and one man deliberated for slightly over three hours before finding the defendant not guilty on three charges of murder-first degree, felony use of a firearm in a violent crime and second-degree arson from the July 15, 2012 slaying of Michael Milstead.

The case was fraught with issues in and out of the courtroom. Court security had to be called twice to quell disturbances between the defendant’s family and the deceased's family outside of the building.

An expert witness, Kathryn Busch, testified  Friday that although most of the clothing left in the 2009 Chevrolet Malibu in which Milstead’s body was found on Piney Church Road did not reveal DNA from the defendant, a UNLV baseball cap, a tank top and a t-shirt found in the vehicle did contain “touch DNA” from Lyles, evidence which seemed damning to the defense team of David Simpson and Todd Stewart.

The jury, however, felt otherwise.

“I’ve been through dozens of jury trials and you never know how a jury is going to decide these things,” Simpson said following the weeklong trial. “Apparently, they didn’t find the evidence enough to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The jury system is the one we have,” he said.

Lyles will not be a free man just yet. Facing a violation of probation charge on a previous case, Bragunier denied a motion to release the defendant on bail.

“Even though the esteemed citizens of Charles County found the defendant not guilty, your honor has been the finder of facts in this case for this past week,” Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis Granados said after the verdict was rendered. “I would ask your honor not to release a murderer back on the streets of Charles County.”

Bragunier sided with the state and denied the defense team’s motion. Lyles is facing 13-and-a-half years of backup time on the violation of parole case.

That case will be heard before Bragunier May 11.

Milstead’s father said after the trial that although they were disappointed in the verdict, they still will hope for the best.

“We’re praying,” he said.

Read the original arrest report here: CCSO Detectives Charge Suspect in Connection with Homicide

Read the original release on the murder here: Charles County Homicide Under Investigation

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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