TWO SHOTGUN BLASTS LATER IT WEREN'T NO JOKE Lucey Olney Thought He Was Jokin'. Two Shotgun Blasts Later It Weren't No Joke. Witness: Chaudoin 'Would Get Rid Of' Doyles - Orlando Sentinel http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1996-08-13/news/9608120799_1_pat-doyle-alligators-olney articles.orlandosentinel.com/.../9608120799_1_pat-doyle-alligators-o... Aug 13, 1996 – Jurors heard the testimony Monday from Lucey Olney, a movie location manager who struck up a friendship with Chaudoin in 1994 at Seminole ... Witness: Chaudoin 'Would Get Rid Of' Doyles Chaudoin Often Talked Of His Anger At Pat Doyle And His Fear That He Would Be Kicked Off The Ranch, A Friend Testified By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 13, 1996 TAVARES — Spectators packed in a Lake County courtroom gasped in horror Monday upon hearing that Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin talked of feeding the bodies of his bosses to alligators. Chaudoin, 71, made statements that ''alligators don't eat fresh meat,'' and that bodies would have to be buried for a time to turn them into ''alligator bait.'' A year later, his bosses were gunned down and their bodies dumped into a shallow grave beneath a hay bale 300 yards from the doorstep of his home on Seminole Woods ranch, where he had been a caretaker for 20 years. Now, Chaudoin is facing charges of first-degree murder and grand theft auto. Jurors heard the testimony Monday from Lucey Olney, a movie location manager who struck up a friendship with Chaudoin in 1994 at Seminole Woods ranch. Chaudoin talked openly about his deteriorating relationship with his bosses, Jack Doyle, 62, and his wife, Patricia Doyle, 59, daughter of elderly ranch owners Ted and Althea Strawn. The Doyles left their home in California to run the ranch for her aging parents. ''He said Pat (Doyle) was angry with him, and he was angry with Pat,'' Olney testified. The Doyles were angry about a 68-acre parcel deeded to Chaudoin by the Strawns for $10 and other ''valuable considerations'' listed on the deed. Chaudoin has maintained that the property was given for 20 years of loyal service for little pay. Olney said Chaudoin felt threatened, and frequently grilled her to see whether Pat Doyle had said anything about kicking him off the ranch and taking the 68 acres. ''If they know what's good for them, they would go back to California,'' she quoted him as saying. She said he had no money, no Social Security - ''nothing to lose'' if he were booted out of his mobile home on the 5,600-acre ranch and had his 68-acre parcel taken away. ''He said that he would get rid of them. ''I would say, 'Russell, you don't want to do that. It would ruin your life.' ''He said he wouldn't get caught.'' In the presence of two other people filming a movie at the ranch, Chaudoin said, ''There's a lot of swamps. You can hide a lot of bodies in a swamp.'' Then, with just Olney in the cab of his pickup truck, the avid hunter asked her whether she knew how to make alligator bait. She guessed that the ''bait'' would have to be below the water. ''He said, 'You're partially right.' '' He then went on to say it had to be buried first. ''Alligators don't eat fresh meat. You have to make it rotten.'' Olney said he got a ''glint in his eye'' and said something she thought sounded like a line in a Clint Eastwood movie: ''Pat doesn't realize who she's dealing with. I'm a dangerous man.'' Defense attorney Michael Hatfield, trying to diffuse the damaging testimony, asked her whether Chaudoin liked to tease her because she is so much younger than he is. ''Yes,'' she replied. Olney followed Danny Nichols to the stand. It was Nichols who on July 5, 1995 led investigators to the Doyles' red 1986 Isuzu Trooper, which had been stashed in a wilderness area in Flagler County since the couple's disappearance June 13, 1995. The slender 38-year-old, dressed in black jeans and a Western shirt, glanced nervously at Chaudoin at the beginning of his testimony. He said Chaudoin asked him to come to the ranch to put up hay or cut brush. Instead, he ended up being directed to follow Chaudoin in a red truck to the woods. Later, when detectives broadcast a description of the missing vehicle on TV, he realized the vehicle belonged to the Doyles. He said he and his wife, Shannon, who is the niece of Chaudoin's wife, Holly, spent a miserable July Fourth holiday until sheriff's investigators knocked on his door on July 5. ''I was relieved,'' he said. Nichols said he didn't ask questions when asked to follow Chaudoin to the woods with the Trooper, and Chaudoin didn't say much, except: ''What's happened has happened.'' Chaudoin indicated he didn't want to hear the subject come up again - ever. ''I was afraid,'' Nichols said. But a week later, Chaudoin brought up the subject himself, by having Nichols drive him once again to the hiding spot near Bunnell, Nichols said. Unlike the first time, when Chaudoin emerged from the woods with a license plate and tools in his hand, this time he brought nothing but a smile and a chuckle, Nichols testified. Again, there were no questions asked. Nichols said he had learned from his friends and family members that ''Junior's not the kind of person you ask questions. You just do what he says.'' Also taking the stand Monday was Roy Gillespie, a former Lake County jail inmate who befriended Chaudoin. Gillespie said he was to do a ''big favor'' for his poker-playing pal in the jail - he was to find Nichols in a Umatilla bar, then plant drugs in his car and call the cops. Instead, Gillespie said he ran right to the police. Plans called for Chaudoin's son, Jimmy, to deliver $500 in an envelope to the elder Chaudoin's favorite hangout, the Oasis Lounge in Sorrento. Gillespie met bar owner George Baker at the bar and picked up the envelope marked ''Jr.'' Inside were five $100 bills, he said. Massive Search Is Mounted For Missing Couple By Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff June 30, 1995 MOUNT PLYMOUTH — Deputies on horseback, in helicopters and paddling canoes scoured the 5,600-acre environmentally sensitive ranch of a prominent Central Florida landowner Thursday for clues to the whereabouts of his daughter and her husband. Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, disappeared on June 13 after they left the DeLeon Springs home of some friends and headed for the ranch. The property, which is off State Road 46A in Lake County, is owned by Theodore and Althea Strawn, who live in DeLand. Volusia investigators don't know whether the couple met with foul play, but they called in more than 100 officers to look for them. ''They don't know what to think. It would be strange to think they'd leave her parents unattended for two weeks,'' said Gary Davidson, a spokesman for the Volusia sheriff. Jack Doyle, a retired attorney, and his wife moved to Volusia County about a year ago from La Jolla, Calif., because the Strawns needed medical care and constant attention, Davidson said. The Doyles were running the Strawn ranch, said Bruce Crump, whose wife, Sylvia, is Patricia Doyle's cousin. ''All of a sudden they just disappeared off the face of the earth,'' Crump said. The Doyles' daughter, Kristan Britain, flew from Seattle to be nearby while searchers try to find her parents. Davidson did not know why relatives waited until Tuesday to notify police that the couple were missing. The Doyles still own a home in La Jolla but have been living with the Strawns for about a year, Davidson said. Deputies from Lake, Volusia and Marion counties, and officers from the Daytona Beach Police Department and the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday combed the ranch and adjacent state-owned property. The search has been painstakingly slow because of the terrain. ''It's tough,'' said Lake County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Dave Hall. ''A lot of it is swamp. Horses and the little ATVs are the best way to search.'' Deputies aren't sure who last saw the Doyles or whether they made it to the Strawn ranch, called Seminole Woods. A caretaker saw them driving their red Isuzu trooper, but he is unsure whether it was June 12 or 13. Bodies Of Couple Found On Ranch The Bodies Were Near The Trailer Of A Caretaker Who Had Been Feuding With Them. By Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff July 7, 1995 SORRENTO — Investigators unearthed two bodies Thursday night near the trailer of a 70-year-old ranch worker charged hours earlier with stealing a missing couple's truck. The bodies were believed to be Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband Jack, 62, who disappeared June 13. Lake County deputy sheriffs found a grave about 6 p.m after moving 200 bales of hay at a ranch owned by the couple's family. Deputies were questioning Russell Sage ''Junior'' Chaudoin, the ranch caretaker. The bodies were buried 300 yards from his home. Earlier Thursday, investigators found the couple's red 1986 Isuzu Trooper off a country road in Flagler County, cementing suspicions that the couple had been killed. Friends and detectives said there was friction between Chaudoin and the Doyles, whose family owns thousands of acres in Central Florida. Lake deputy sheriffs impounded the truck and planned to search after dark Thursday, using a high-tech lighting device to hunt for blood and other evidence invisible to the naked eye. Detectives had few clues in the case until John Nichols told them his story late Wednesday night. Nichols, a friend of Chaudoin's, led detectives to the truck off State Road 305, near Seville. Nichols told them that Chaudoin called him June 13 and asked for his help with hay on the farm, an arrest warrant shows. The next day, Chaudoin told Nichols, whose address wasn't immediately known, that he had sold a Trooper and was going to deliver it, the report shows. The caretaker drove the truck into woods, removed the license plate, then climbed into the car with Nichols, who drove him back to the 5,600-acre ranch, called Seminole Woods, the warrant shows. ''At this time, it appears that Nichols was a somewhat unwitting participant,'' said Volusia County sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson. Detectives were expected Thursday night to question Chaudoin, who was being held without bond at the Lake County Jail. They want to know about the bad blood between him and the Doyles, caused by a 1993 real estate transaction. Chaudoin bought 68 acres of land from the elderly owners of the ranch, Ted and Althea Strawn, who are the parents of Patricia Doyle. The sale took place four days after Christmas, property records show. The price: $10. The land, between State Road 44 and Huff Road just east of Seminole Springs Elementary School, was valued at $178,878 by the Lake County property appraiser this year. The Doyles were unhappy with the transaction, police said. ''I understand that Patricia wanted to get him off the property,'' said John Strawn, a cousin from DeLand. ''He had been there for a long time, so he may not have wanted to go.'' Chaudoin had called Seminole Woods home for more than 30 years, police said. Strawn's ranch - bought in 1950 for $155,100 - has been one of the most sought after tracts of wilderness in Florida. More than 50 springs dotting the property feed a pair creeks that, in turn, flow into the Wekiva River. Through the late 1980s, Strawn often said he was interested in selling his ranch for conservation. But he rejected several offers by state officials, leaving them baffled over what Strawn really intended to do with his ranch. In 1989, state officials asked Strawn whether he would accept $12 million for the property. Shortly afterward, Central Florida developer Sid Roche announced plans to purchase Strawn's property for as much as $16 million. However, the deal fell through when new development restrictions for the Wekiva River took effect. Strawn's ranch has remained in the top 10 most important properties to purchase for conservation. The Doyles, who were living in La Jolla, Calif., returned to the DeLand area last year to run the ranch and care for her father, who is 92, and her mother, 83, when their health began to fail. Doyle, a retired attorney and certified public accountant, and his marine-biologist wife ran Strawn's ranch near Sorrento until they vanished. She and her husband relished the physical work on the ranch, according to Sylvia Crump, a cousin from DeLeon Springs. The couple rose early most mornings to bale hay, build fences and care for livestock. ''They did hard physical work, and it was a change from their lifestyle,'' Crump said. ''She had done a lot of work looking through a microscope, and she told me she was just glad to be out in the fresh air.'' For the past week, more than 100 Lake, Volusia and Marion deputies have been searching Seminole Woods for the couple. The first break came with Chaudoin's arrest, and deputies hope it prompts someone else with information to come forward. Chaudoin was being held without bond because of his ''violent past,'' Lake sheriff's Lt. Chris Daniels said. In March 1980, the caretaker was charged with aggravated assault and battery after a woman said he beat her over the head with a .38-caliber revolver. He was sentenced to three years' probation but wasn't convicted. He also was charged with two counts of battery in 1993 and was found not guilty on both. Shotgun Blasts Killed Lake Couple Caretaker questioned The Unidentified Bodies Are Thought To Be Those Of Jack And Patricia Doyle. By Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff July 8, 1995 SORRENTO — The killer of a couple whose bodies were exhumed Thursday night at an isolated Lake County ranch blasted the victims at close range with a shotgun, authorities said Friday. The bodies, thought to be those of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, were found buried under four feet of dirt, which was covered with bales of hay. They likely will be positively identified in a few days, when dental records arrive from California, Lake County Sheriff George Knupp said. A preliminary autopsy Friday morning showed that the man died after shotgun pellets tore through his right rib cage. The woman was shot once in the left breast. On Friday afternoon, deputies with a search warrant combed the trailer where the caretaker of the 5,600-acre ranch lived. Russell Sage ''Junior'' Chaudoin's home is about 300 yards from where the bodies were found on the ranch called Seminole Woods. ''We're looking for any evidence that may link him to the Doyles or to any criminal activity,'' Knupp said. They found a number of shotguns that could have been used in the killings, along with other evidence, at the mobile home where Chaudoin has lived for more than 30 years, Sheriff's Lt. Chris Daniels said. Chaudoin, 70, is being held without bail at the Lake County Jail. He is charged with taking the red 1986 Isuzu Trooper that belonged to the Doyles. The Doyles vanished from DeLeon Springs on June 13 in their truck. Deputies discovered the bodies after a week of searching the ranch the Doyles were running for Patricia Doyle's ailing parents, Ted and Althea Strawn. On Friday, the Strawns notified Chaudoin that he was being evicted from the ranch and that he had been fired from his job. There was friction between the Doyles and the caretaker after a December 1993 real estate transaction. Chaudoin paid the Strawns $10 for a 68-acre spread of land between State Road 44 and Huff Road, property records show. That land was valued at $178,878 this year by the Lake County property appraiser's office. Police said the Doyles were not happy about the deal. Patricia Doyle, a marine biologist, and her husband, a retired certified public accountant and attorney, had moved to Volusia County from La Jolla, Calif., to care for the elderly Strawns. Police had no clues to their whereabouts until Wednesday night, when a friend of Chaudoin's led them to the truck in woods off State Road 305 in Flagler County. Deputies plan to search the truck with a high-tech lighting device for traces of blood or evidence invisible to the naked eye. This is not Chaudoin's first brush with the law. In 1976, he appeared before a coroner's jury in the December 1975 shooting death of Alfred Erny, 32, of Sarasota. The caretaker testified that he and his wife, Holly, were ambushed while they were deer hunting near Cassia. He said he fired his .270 Remington hunting rifle at Erny, who was aiming a gun at him. The coroner's jury ruled the death justifiable. In 1980, he was charged with aggravated assault and battery after a woman said he beat her over the head with a .38-caliber revolver. He was not convicted but was sentenced to three years' probation. The caretaker also was charged but found not guilty of battery in 1993. Officers Take Weapons From Suspect's Trailer By Robert Perez of The Sentinel Staff July 14, 1995 TAVARES — Investigators looking for clues in the shotgun slayings of a Volusia County couple confiscated weapons and ammunition from a trailer near where the bodies were found, court documents released Thursday show. Lake County deputy sheriffs took 10 weapons - including a 12-gauge shotgun - from the home of Russell Sage ''Junior'' Chaudoin, caretaker of the 5,600-acre ranch owned by the couple's family, the documents show. Chaudoin was served with search warrants on July 6 and 7. The first warrant was related to his arrest in the theft of the dead couple's 1986 Isuzu Trooper. The second warrant was issued after the bodies of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, were found about 300 yards from Chaudoin's trailer - buried under four feet of dirt and dozens of hay bales. The warrant, served on Chaudoin as he sat in the Lake County Jail, states the later search was necessary because ''the laws against first degree premeditated murder have been violated on the . . . premises.'' No one has been charged in the killings of the Doyles, who were shot at close range with a shotgun. In addition to the 12-gauge shotgun, which was found in Chaudoin's living room, investigators recovered seven spent buckshot shells on the home's kitchen floor. Sheriff's officials have refused to name any suspects in the killings. Chaudoin is being held without bond in the Lake County Jail on the stolen-truck charge. ''In this particular case, we have declined to release certain information to the public that could hamper our investigation,'' Lake County sheriff's Lt. Chris Daniels said. ''We hope the public will trust our judgment.'' Among the other items taken from the trailer were a machete, a .44-caliber Magnum revolver, several rifles, several boxes of ammunition, a pair of handcuffs, three pairs of boots, electrical tape and a gold-colored money clip found under a couch behind a hog pen. The Doyles vanished from DeLeon Springs on June 13 in their truck. Deputies discovered the bodies after a week of searching the ranch the Doyles were running for Patricia Doyle's ailing parents, Ted and Althea Strawn. Detectives had few clues in the case until a friend of Chaudoin's spoke with them late on July 5. John Nichols led detectives to the Doyle's missing truck off State Road 305, near Seville, Chaudoin's arrest warrant shows. Nichols told them that Chaudoin called him June 13 and asked for his help with hay on the farm. The next day, Chaudoin told Nichols that he had sold a truck and was going to deliver it, the warrant shows. The caretaker drove the truck into the woods, removed the license plate, then climbed into the car with Nichols, who drove him back to the Doyles' ranch in Seminole Woods. Affidavits on both search warrants include Nichols' testimony. The July 7 search warrant, sworn out by Detective Ken Adams, also states that Chaudoin's wife told investigators that her husband told her on July 5 that Nichols had killed the Doyles. Daniels of the sheriff's office said Nichols has been interviewed by investigators but declined to say whether Nichols is a suspect in the slayings. Nichols, whose address was not in court documents, could not be reached for comment. Chaudoin Involved In 2 Deaths In 1970s Russell Sage Chaudoin, Indicted In A Recent Double Slaying, Was In The Middle Of A Feud In Lake County. By Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff July 30, 1995 SORRENTO — The caretaker charged in the slaying of a retired couple at a Lake County ranch has a reputation among residents as a man most people were reluctant to cross. Russell Sage ''Junior'' Chaudoin is sturdy, graying, a hard drinker with a short fuse. Few ventured onto the ranch known as Seminole Woods, where Chaudoin has lived for 23 years. Chaudoin has crossed paths sev eral times with police. He served two years in state prison for driving through a fence to hunt deer on someone else's land at night. He also spent three years on probation on a battery charge for which he was not convicted. And he was at the center of a bitter feud that left two men dead 20 years ago. Residents of the tiny citrus and ranching town said he was known to patrol the sprawling 5,600-acre ranch during the day in a run-down jeep with a pistol in his waistband. ''You didn't go on the property,'' said one nearby resident who didn't want his name used. Four or five nights a week he could be found occupying a bar stool at the Oasis bar on State Road 46 in Sorrento. ''He's been out on Seminole Woods for a long time,'' said longtime resident Charles Ross. ''He thought he owned it.'' Chaudoin, 70, the caretaker at the ranch off State Road 46A near Sorrento, is being held without bond at the Lake County Jail, indicted Friday on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of grand theft. The bodies of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, were found buried 300 yards from Chaudoin's doorstep. For the past year the couple had been running the ranch for Pat Doyle's elderly parents, prominent landowners Ted and Althea Strawn of DeLeon Springs. Friends of the victims said Chaudoin ran afoul of the Doyles after a recent real estate transaction between Chaudoin and Ted Strawn. The caretaker had paid Strawn $10 for 68 acres valued in 1995 by the Lake County property appraiser's office at $176,878. Chaudoin declined requests for an interview. His lawyer, Mike Hatfield, did not return phone calls. His wife, Holly, declined to comment and referred all questions to Hatfield. His sister, Pearl Boyd, said her brother is a ''tender-hearted man'' who always tried to help people. 1 fight led to 2 deaths Twenty years ago, Chaudoin shot a man to death. Some wonder if it was because the man - a Sarasota auto mechanic - looked like someone with whom Chaudoin had been feuding. Chaudoin said it was self-defense: The man had been shooting at him. A coroner's inquest ruled the death justifiable. Here is how it happened: Alfred Erny, 32, of Sarasota, was hunting near Seminole Woods in December 1975 when he was killed by a single shot from Chaudoin's caliber-.270 Remington rifle. Chaudoin told investigators that a group of men had come out of the woods and fired rifles at him and his wife. He said he fired back to protect himself. The couple's Volkswagen had bullet holes in it. Officials believed Chaudoin. Erny's friends did not. Erny had been killed at the height of a feud between Chaudoin and another man, Kenny Bagwell, a wiry 32-year-old Vietnam veteran with deep roots in Sorrento. Chaudoin's wife, the former Holly Shannon, had been married before, to Bagwell's brother. Shortly before Erny was killed, Bagwell had run into Chaudoin's wife at a Sorrento bar. ''Junior Chaudoin is a very jealous, well, insanely jealous man,'' Ross said. The men fought in the parking lot of the lounge, said Paul Huff, Chaudoin's friend and former co-worker. Bagwell lost badly. Later, Erny went hunting on land adjoining Seminole Woods. Rupert Tuten, 65, remembered seeing Erny that winter day. ''He looked like Kenneth (Bagwell),'' Tuten said. ''And he was wearing the same kind of hat Kenneth used to wear. In the woods it would be hard to tell them apart.'' Chaudoin sons join fight Less than a year later, in the tavern where Kenny Bagwell had fought with Chaudoin, Bagwell got into another argument, this time with Chaudoin's sons, Clark, 22, and Russell, 30. One witness recalled Russell Chaudoin telling Bagwell, ''If anything happens to my daddy, you're going to answer to me.'' When the argument turned physical, Tuten, who did not know the Chaudoins but was acquainted with Bagwell, broke it up. Tuten and his brother-in-law, Ross, then escorted the Chaudoins out, witnesses and court documents say. Minutes later, a rifle barrel poked through the door. At least eight shots rang out. Tuten lay bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. Bagwell, mortally wounded, lay nearby. He died the next day at an Orlando hospital. Tuten recovered. The Chaudoin sons were charged. Clark Chaudoin's conviction was overturned. Russell Chaudoin was sentenced to life and 15 years. The elder Chaudoin was a suspect in the death of the Doyles for some time before he was charged. It is believed that he feared the couple would contest his real estate deal by saying Ted Strawn was incompetent. Pearl Boyd, Chaudoin's sister, said he is a good man, and media accounts are ''making it look too hard on my brother.'' It distresses her that he has been jailed. ''He's always been a person to help everybody he could.'' Chaudoin Indicted Again In Shootings A Second Grand Jury Has Indicted The Sorrento Ranch Hand In The Deaths Of Jack And Patricia Doyle. By Lesley Clark of The Sentinel Staff October 18, 1995 TAVARES — A Sorrento man accused in the shotgun slaying of a prominent Volusia County couple was indicted by a second Lake County grand jury Tuesday in connection with the deaths. Russell Sage ''Junior'' Chaudoin, 70, was again charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62. A grand jury in July indicted Chaudoin on the murder charges, and he pleaded not guilty to the charges in August. Although prosecutors said the reindictment was because they added two charges, the proceedings of the first grand jury have come under fire from Chaudoin's defense attorney. Prosecutors said they asked a second grand jury to indict Chaudoin because they added two charges of grand theft, accusing Chaudoin of stealing 43 cattle from the ranch where the bodies were found. Prosecutors said the jury must reindict on all charges if additional charges are filed. However, Chaudoin's attorney Michael Hatfield of Umatilla has filed two motions with the court attacking the first grand jury process. In the motions, Hatfield said prosecutors unlawfully dismissed one grand juror and unlawfully placed another juror on the panel. No hearing has been set on those motions. The jurors also reindicted Chaudoin on a charge of stealing the Doyles' 1986 Isuzu Trooper. The Doyles' bodies were found July 6 in a grave under a heap of hay bales about 300 yards from Chaudoin's mobile home on the Seminole Woods Ranch, where he worked. The Doyles had returned to their native DeLand last year to help Patricia Doyle's ailing parents, Ted and Althea Strawn, run the 5,600-acre ranch. The Doyles disagreed with a 1993 real estate transaction in which Chaudoin bought 68 acres of ranch property from the Strawns for $10, investigators have said. Family members have said Patricia Doyle wanted Chaudoin off the property. Ranch Hand's Hearing Is Web Of Legal Motions By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff March 14, 1996 TAVARES — Lawyers began firing off legal motions and laying the groundwork Wednesday for the murder trial of Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, charged with slaying a DeLand couple on a sprawling Seminole Woods ranch. ''It's a crack in the egg,'' defense attorney Mike Hatfield said of the pretrial arguments. As it was, it was a big egg, with Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett and Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross unscrambling 53 motions, including several constitutional challenges to the state's death penalty statutes. Those motions were denied by the judge. They will be filed for future appeals if the 70-year-old ranch hand is convicted in the slayings of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband Jack, 62, longtime DeLand residents who were running the 5,600-acre ranch for her parents, Ted and Althea Strawn. One thing lawyers did agree upon, however, was the setting aside, for now, of two cattle rustling charges that reportedly occurred up to two years before the Doyles were slain with a shotgun. The judge will decide later if the alleged theft can be mentioned during the murder trial. Hatfield had wanted to go to trial on the rustling charges first. ''I would like to wash that,'' he said. ''I don't want the cow stealing to come up in a murder trial.'' If Chaudoin is convicted of murder, the cattle theft charges probably will never go to trial. But the theft of the couple's 1986 Isuzu Trooper was not set aside. Chaudoin is charged with stealing the vehicle and then ditching it later in the woods. The slaying shocked the rural community near Sorrento. More than 100 Volusia and Lake County deputy sheriffs searched for the couple until their bodies were found July 13, buried beneath a huge haystack 300 yards from Chaudoin's trailer. Investigators believe the Doyles were killed after quarreling with Chaudoin over the purchase of 68 acres of ranch land for $10. Hatfield also argued for, and lost, a bid to have jurors sequestered during the trial, and even during jury selection. He cited news coverage and his concern that jurors could be tainted by news accounts of the slayings. Jury selection could be a cumbersome two-day affair, even with the use of questionnaires that could weed out hundreds of people who know something about the case. The trial is set for April 29, about the same time as the trial of Keith Johnson, a Tavares Middle School student charged with the shooting death of another student on campus. The lawyers will air more motions over evidence and witnesses on April 16. 2 Tell Of Plot To Kill Trial Witnesses Ex-cellmates Of Russell Chaudoin Say The Murder Suspect Tried To Hire Them To Kill Two People. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff April 4, 1996 TAVARES — Investigators are looking into reports that a suspect charged in the June slayings of a couple at an east Lake County ranch tried to hire two prisoners to kill witnesses in the case. Two jailhouse roommates of Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin have said the 70-year-old suspect wanted them to kill people who are to testify in his first-degree murder trial April 29. The two inmates are seeking breaks in their sentences in return for testifying against Chaudoin. Chaudoin is charged with killing DeLand resident Jack Doyle and his wife, Patricia, whose parents own the 5,600-acre Seminole Woods Ranch. ''The witnesses have been notified and precautions taken,'' said Lake County sheriff's Investigator Jack McDonald. Contacted at the Lake County Jail, Chaudoin would not talk about the allegations. His lawyer could not be reached. However, Daniel Davis, 40, a prisoner at the jail, told The Orlando Sentinel in an interview that Chaudoin recruited him to kill two witnesses plus the wife of one if ''she got in the way.'' He was to get $55,000, property and a car for running over one witness with a vehicle and poisoning the other with a product to unclog drains. Davis said he refused. The Sentinel has also learned that the State Attorney's Office is investigating whether Chaudoin recruited another inmate - who also declined the job - before approaching Davis. Officials with the State Attorney's Office would not discuss the case. However, Davis, who is awaiting sentencing on a weapons charge, said in an interview on Wednesday that Chaudoin asked him while they shared a cell in January and February to kill the witnesses. One target was to be Roy D. Gillespie, another former cellmate of Chaudoin's, Davis said. He said Chaudoin told him that Gillespie went to authorities after Chaudoin asked him to kill John D. Nichols. Nichols, who is related to Chaudoin by marriage, last summer told authorities that he helped Chaudoin dispose of the Doyles' sport truck after the killings. He said in a statement to police that Chaudoin told him he had sold the red 1986 Isuzu Trooper. Gillespie, jailed in June on domestic violence charges, has been released from jail and could not be located to talk about the matter. Nichols, who no longer lives in Florida, also wasn't available. Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, were found buried beneath a giant hay bale about 300 yards from Chaudoin's home at the ranch, where he was the caretaker. They had been blasted by shotgun pellets during what investigators have said was a dispute over the sale of property to Chaudoin. Authorities have said Patricia Doyle was upset that her elderly parents, Ted and Althea Strawn, sold Chaudoin 68 acres of the ranch for $10. Davis said Chaudoin offered him $5,000 and a pickup truck up front to kill Gillespie, Nichols and Nichols' wife ''if she got in the way.'' Later, Chaudoin would pay an additional $50,000 and give him five acres, Davis said. ''I was just going to take the $5,000 and the vehicle and leave,'' Davis said. According to the deal, however, Gillespie was to get especially rough treatment. ''I was to hit him with a bat and say, 'This is from Junior.' Then I was to run over him with a vehicle on a country road,'' Davis said. Davis said he was to kill Nichols by mixing cocaine with Drano. ''I said, 'Even if he doesn't die, his brain will melt down and he'll be a vegetable,' '' Davis said. Davis, a convicted felon, was found guilty by a jury last month of possessing a shotgun. Sheriff's investigators said he was trying to break into his former wife's house in Bassville Park. Davis said it became apparent after his conviction that he wasn't going to be free to carry out Chaudoin's plan, and his relationship with the former caretaker soured. Davis has since been moved to an isolation cell for his protection. Both Davis and the other inmate who says he was approached by Chaudoin - who authorities would not identify - want reduced prison sentences in return for testifying against Chaudoin. Davis, for example, could face 30 years in prison if sentenced under the state's guidelines for habitual offenders. He has been in and out of Lake County courtrooms since the 1980s on such charges as criminal mischief, aggravated battery and resisting arrest without violence. Defense Seeks To Delay Trial In Double Murder By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff April 6, 1996 TAVARES — The attorney for a man accused last summer of killing a couple and burying their bodies beneath a giant hay bale has asked for a delay in the murder trial that is scheduled to begin April 29. Michael Hatfield, who is defending Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, has asked that the trial be moved back to July, one year after Chaudoin's arrest. The lawyer asked for more time to prepare Russell Chaudoin's case in the deaths of Jack and Pat Doyle. Chaudoin, 70, is charged in the shotgun slayings of Jack and Patricia Doyle. The prominent DeLand couple were running the family's 5,600-acre Seminole Woods ranch for Patricia Doyle's parents, Ted and Althea Strawn. Hatfield, in his motion to Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett, said he needs more time to investigate. The Umatilla lawyer also said he needs more time to prepare motions, review jury questionnaires and handle other time-consuming tasks. Last month, Hatfield, Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross and Lockett began sifting through more than 50 pretrial motions in the case, including many challenging the constitutionality of the state's death penalty statutes. Hatfield said another lawyer who was to help him during the penalty phase of the trial has backed out. He said the State Attorney's Office has no ''strenuous objection to a continuance.'' The motion was filed in the Lake County clerk of court's office on Wednesday, one day before the case took a strange twist for the defense. On Thursday, The Sentinel reported that a Lake County jail inmate, Daniel Davis, was telling authorities that Chaudoin tried to recruit him to kill two witnesses who are supposed to testify in the murder case. Authorities are investigating and have warned the witnesses - Roy Gillespie, a former cellmate of Chaudoin's, and John D. Nichols, who told authorities he helped park the Doyles' sport truck in the woods after their disappearance. Hatfield, who is out of the state, could not be reached for comment. Chaudoin has declined interviews. Testimony In Double-murder Trial May Point To Rustling As A Motive By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff April 17, 1996 TAVARES — Was cattle rustling the motive for the slaying of Patricia and Jack Doyle at Seminole Woods ranch last summer? The question could become a major point in the state's case against Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, a 70-year-old ranch caretaker who goes on trial on murder charges Aug. 5. Defense attorney Mike Hatfield argued Tuesday that allegations of rustling, with its ''sensational'' and ''romantic aura'' would obscure the real issues and block Chaudoin's chances for a fair trial. Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett has already ruled that livestock theft charges will not be added to the murder charges in the trial. But the judge said he will decide by Friday whether Chaudoin to allow testimony about rustling as a possible motive for the slayings. The most damaging testimony in a court hearing Tuesday came from a friend of Chaudoin's, Charles Simmons, who said Chaudoin sold cattle in his name, then called him and told him to cash the check and bring the money to him. ''I was somewhat surprised,'' Simmons said. ''I told him, this is a pretty good chunk of money.'' ''He said his wife needed surgery,'' Simmons said. He also said that Chaudoin talked of promises that ranch owner Ted Strawn made to him but failed to deliver. Strawn and his wife Althea, the owners of the ranch, are the elderly parents of Patricia Doyle. The Doyles had returned to Florida to work the 5,600-acre Wekiva River spread for her parents. Chaudoin also is charged with stealing the Doyles' red Isuzu Trooper. The couple stored cattle inventory records in the sport truck, records that were not found after the couple and the truck disappeared in June, said sheriff's investigator Jack McDonald. The truck turned up in Flagler County woods. The Doyles were found buried beneath a huge hay bale near Chaudoin's house on the ranch. Some of the most damning statements by witnesses may never be heard, the lawyers agreed, because they are hearsay or inadmissible by law, including statements that the Doyles reportedly made to others that they were afraid of Chaudoin. Investigators believe the Doyles were upset over the Strawns' selling 68 acres of the ranch to Chaudoin for only $10. The Doyles were ready to fire the longtime caretaker from the ranch, authorities believe. Lake County jail inmate Daniel Davis, who once shared a jail cell with Chaudoin, said the caretaker talked about Patricia Doyle demanding he produce a bill of sale to prove ownership of some cattle. And he mentioned selling cattle through a friend of his. But Hatfield accused Davis of trying to get out of jail so he could kill his ex-wife, a detective and Judge Lockett. ''That's crazy,'' said Davis, who was convicted a few weeks ago on charges of being a convicted felon in the possession of a firearm. He also faces aggravated stalking charges in the attempted break-in of his ex-wife's home. Prosecutors were seeking to classify him as a habitual offender when he told prosecutors that Chaudoin wanted him to kill witnesses including former jail inmate Roy Gillespie. Gillespie, Davis says, was approached by Chaudoin first to strike out at a witness. Instead, Gillespie told his story to authorities, who have released him from jail. 2 From Ohio To Testify In Ranch Hand's Trial By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff July 13, 1996 TAVARES — Attorneys for Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin will be able to call two witnesses from Ohio to help the 70-year-old ranch hand defend himself against charges that he murdered the daughter of a well-known rancher and her husband last year. Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett approved defense attorney Michael Graves' request to compel Sherry Gray-Marks and Jim Gilchrist to come to Lake County for Chaudoin's trial, set to begin Aug. 5. Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross didn't object but said he couldn't see how their testimony would make a difference. Chaudoin was arrested in July 1995 following a massive search for the bodies of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, on the sprawling Seminole Woods ranch near Sorrento. Deputy sheriffs finally got a break in the case when John D. Nichols told authorities he helped Chaudoin hide the Doyles' car several miles away in the woods. The Doyles' bodies were found hidden beneath giant haystacks near Chaudoin's mobile home on the ranch. Testimony from Gray-Marks may become important, Graves said, because she is a good friend of Shannon Nichols, the wife of John D. Nichols, and the two talked about the Doyles' disappearance. Gray-Marks became alarmed at what she was hearing and reported the conversations to the Geauga County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department. Jim Gilchrist, a detective with that sheriff's office, taped two conversations, said Graves, who did not want to disclose any more details. The murders shocked the normally quiet, rural community surrounding the 5,600-acre ranch. The Doyles had recently left their jobs in California to come back to Florida to take care of the ranch for Patricia Doyle's aging parents, Ted and Althea Strawn. In earlier pretrial sessions, Lockett agreed to shelve, for the time being, rustling charges against Chaudoin. But he will allow testimony about cattle thefts to be heard by the jury. Rustling may be one motive for the shotgun slaying of the couple. Witnesses have testified in pretrial hearings that the Doyles were checking up on livestock records and reportedly were angry that the longtime ranch hand was able to buy 68 acres of valuable ranch land for only $10. About 100 prospective jurors will be brought in on the first day of the trial. Lawyer Wants To See Letter On Killing The Judge Is To Rule Today On Whether To Let The Prosecutor See Defendant Russell Chaudoin's Letter To His Son. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff July 31, 1996 TAVARES — The prosecutor in the murder trial of Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, 70, is demanding to see a letter that Chaudoin has written to his son, Jimmy, about the disappearance and murder of a prominent couple at the massive Seminole Woods ranch last summer. ''It is the defendant's version of what happened to Pat and Jack Doyle,'' Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross told Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett on Tuesday. Lockett, after hearing both sides' arguments, gave the attorneys until noon today to do research on case law that might affect his ruling on whether the letter should be shared with prosecutors. He said he would rule by this afternoon. The letter, if it is a confession or is incriminating, would be a blow to the defense at the murder trial, which begins Monday. Gross argued that he was entitled to the materials by court discovery rules, which give defense and prosecuting attorneys the right to look at each other's evidence before the trial. Gross argued, and defense attorneys Michael Graves and Michael Hatfield agreed, that the letter did not fall under the attorney-client privilege rules, which keeps communications between attorneys and defendants secret. But the defense attorneys didn't agree that they should have to give up the letter. ''We don't have any intention to use the letter at the trial,'' Graves said. Lockett said he would read the 12-page letter to determine if it should be considered as evidence. Gross said he just learned of the letter during depositions with Jimmy Chaudoin. Patricia Doyle, daughter of Ted and Althea Strawn, had moved from California with her husband, Jack, to take care of the 5,600-acre ranch for her ailing parents. The Doyles disappeared in mid-June, sparking a massive manhunt for the couple. Their bodies were found in early July in a shallow grave hidden beneath a haystack. Investigators say the Doyles were upset with Chaudoin, the ranch's longtime caretaker, when they learned that the Strawns had sold nearly 70 acres of the prime-land ranch to Chaudoin for $10. Pat Doyle's diary, seized by investigators after she disappeared, includes a reference to the family's turning down a purchase offer by the state for $12.5 million. Ranch Slaying Trial To Start Caretaker Is Accused Of Killing 2 By Frank Stanfield and Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff August 4, 1996 TAVARES — Two well-heeled Californians at first thought of the grizzled caretaker as their teacher in running their family's 5,600-acre ranch near Sorrento. Gradually, the pupils began learning things they didn't want to know: Cattle were disappearing. Land was being deeded away from the ranch owners. Then the relationship between caretaker Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin and the Californians - grown children of the ranch owners - exploded. On Monday morning, a prosecutor will begin trying to convince a jury that the 71-year-old caretaker blasted Patricia and Jack Doyle point-blank with a shotgun and buried them within sight of his front door. The bodies of the Doyles were found last July under a hay bale on the Seminole Springs Ranch, regarded as the environmental jewel of Lake County. Attorneys are expected to pick a jury today, but the trial may last two weeks or more. Chaudoin, who has a history of violence, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of grand theft of the Doyle's truck. He is being held in the Lake County Jail without bond. If convicted, Chaudoin could face the death penalty. Potential buyers have offered up to $16 million for Seminole Woods, a spring-filled paradise that stands between the urban sprawl of Orlando and the Ocala National Forest, but to owners Ted and Althea Strawn, the land is priceless. Increasingly, though, the elderly Volusia County couple couldn't take care of the ranch. That's when daughter Pat came home with her husband. For Pat Doyle, 59, returning to Florida after working more than three decades as an oceanographer was a journey back to her roots. The same went for her husband, Jack, 62, a retired aerospace engineer and attorney, who has deep family ties to Volusia County. ''She and Jack were always the intellectuals,'' said Danny Gainin of DeLand, a longtime friend of the couple. Not long after the Doyles began running the ranch, they began to suspect Chaudoin of cattle rustling and swindling her father out of 68 acres of valuable ranch land. Chaudoin had worked on the Seminole Woods ranch for 22 years running the day-to-day operation. At first Chaudoin, a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, shared his ranching knowledge with the Doyles. ''They were anything but ranchers,'' said Chaudoin's 62-year-old brother, Rube. ''When I first met them, they told me how fortunate they were to have Junior out there. They depended totally on Junior to teach them how to run the machinery.'' The Doyles found a measure of satisfaction in learning how to mend fences, bale hay and raise cattle in those early days of 1993. But it was stressful, too, according to Sylvia Krump, a relative, whose account is part of the massive court file on the case. ''She had to learn about the trees and the fertilizer and the cows, and her dad was unable to really help her, and he was not willing really to turn it over to her, to let her go with it. He was second-guessing, really, what she was doing, which made it doubly hard.'' Then, within months, Pat Doyle was butting heads with the strong-willed Chaudoin. ''He was wanting more power,'' said a ranch worker who did not want to be identified for fear of losing his job. ''He felt like he was sort of entitled to it. It was sort of a power-control deal.'' Chaudoin sometimes got what he wanted without a fight after people realized who he was. He had shot and killed a man in a well-publicized incident in 1975. He was cleared by a coroner's jury, which ruled that the shooting was in self-defense. Strawn used the caretaker's reputation to keep people off the ranch, said Chaudoin's brother, Rube. In return, the frugal landowner paid him little but gave him a mobile home and free rein to hunt. At first, Pat Doyle had no problem with the arrangement. During the three-week search for the Doyles, a longtime business associate, Robert Gonzales, told sheriff's deputies: ''Her feeling toward Junior, up until the last year, was that he was a loyal employee and had put up with her dad for 20 years. Anybody that could put up with him deserved to stay out there - he could live out there as long as he wanted to.'' But later entries in her diary began to reflect her growing irritation. ''What have we done to have to put up with Russell?'' she wrote. The diary also detailed what prosecutors later would say was a motive for murder. ''For some reason we've been getting only 50 percent calves. Should be getting 75 percent,'' she wrote. She would also jot down references to missing cattle, and finally, to devising accounting systems, including numbered ear tags for livestock. The couple also suspected that supplies were being stolen from the ranch, according to court records. But it was a dispute over a land deal that led to the Doyles' desire to kick Chaudoin off the ranch. The Doyles' daughter, Kristin Brittain, 40, told police that Chaudoin had ''somehow gotten my grandparents to sign a deed transferring 68 acres to Russell and his wife.'' The property was sold for $10 and ''other valuable considerations,'' according to public records. The Lake County property appraiser's office valued the land along State Road 44 at $176,878 - for tax purposes. Chaudoin said Strawn had promised him the land in return for his years of loyal service. Paul Huff, a longtime friend of Chaudoin's and a former co-worker at Seminole Woods, said the Doyles had threatened to take the caretaker to court over the land. ''The daughter Patricia was protesting it,'' Huff said. ''She said he (Strawn) was incompetent.'' Chaudoin, he said, was angry and was waving the deed around at a local bar as he told the story one night. Brittain told investigators that her parents were not going to fight it. ''I guess . . . in order to fight it, my mom would have to declare Ted incompetent, and she did not want to do that, so they were not going to do anything. They were not going to let Russell know that they even knew.'' There was another reason, too: Her parents were afraid, she said. Ten months before the Doyles were slain, a friend of Chaudoin's witnessed an angry confrontation between the caretaker and Patricia Doyle. ''You can live here the rest of your life, but you're not going to get any property!'' she said. On June 12, 1995 - the day before the couple disappeared - a visibly upset Patricia Doyle met a timber company supervisor and his wife at the gate of the ranch. She was worked up about Chaudoin. ''She said she wanted him off her property immediately,'' said Altha Davis, the supervisor's wife. The next day, Pat and Jack Doyle vanished. Deputies conducted a massive search but found no trace of the pair until July 5 when a relative of Chaudoin's led them to the Doyles' 1986 red Isuzu Trooper, ditched in the woods of rural Flagler County. Not long after that, they discovered freshly disturbed soil beneath a giant hay bale - 300 yards from Chaudoin's doorstep. The bodies of the Doyles were found four feet below the surface. They had been shot point-blank with 12-gauge, double-00 buckshot. Chaudoin, who helped with the search for the missing couple, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. Now it will be up to a jury to decide. But jury members won't have a letter characterized as Chaudoin's side of the story to help them. State Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett ruled last week that the 12-page letter Chaudoin wrote to his son Jimmy shouldn't be admitted as evidence. Chaudoin has his allies. His brother, Rube, and other family members believe in his innocence. The land was already his, Rube Chaudoin said, so the caretaker did not need to fight for it. ''Junior never was a bully,'' Rube Chaudoin said. ''What advantage would Junior have to do this? What would it have profited him to do this? There's no profit to it.'' Deland Family Ties Led Couple To Ranch Trial Begins Today For Ranch Caretaker In Shotgun Slayings Russell Chaudoin Charged With Blasting His Bosses With A Shotgun And Hiding Their Bodies In The Middle Of A Massive, Beautiful Lake County Ranch. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 5, 1996 TAVARES — A jury this week will hear tales of cattle rustling, a scheme to grab valuable land and, finally, murder. Jury selection begins today to decide the guilt or innocence of a ranch caretaker is charged with murdering Patricia and Jack Doyle and hiding their bodies on the Lake County spread. The plot sounds more like a movie than real life. But it is real life - or death in the electric chair - for Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, 71, charged with first- degree murder in the deaths of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, and theft of their sport vehicle last June. The couple had come home from a good life in California to help run the 5,600-acre Seminole Woods ranch for Patricia Doyle's elderly parents, Ted and Althea Strawn. Last summer the skies were filled with the sound of whirling helicopter blades, and the grass below was trampled by deputy sheriffs searching for the Doyles, who disappeared June 13. Also missing was the couple's red 1986 Isuzu Trooper. On July 5, Danny Nichols, 37, whose wife, Shannon, is the niece of Chaudoin's wife, Holly, led authorities to the missing vehicle, according to court records. Within hours, deputies discovered a shallow grave beneath huge mounds of hay near Chaudoin's mobile home. According to court records, Nichols said he thought he was going to earn some extra cash by putting up some hay on the ranch on June 14. But when he returned that night, he told Shannon: ''Something's weird.'' Chaudoin had asked him to follow him as he drove the Isuzu off the ranch to a remote wilderness in Flagler County. Chaudoin disappeared into the woods, emerging a few minutes later with a license plate and tools. ''Don't ask no questions,'' Chaudoin said. ''What's happened has happened.'' One week later, Nichols said, Chaudoin asked him to again drive him to the Flagler County spot. Chaudoin disappeared into the woods and came out a few minutes later, this time empty-handed. ''Whenever he set down in the car, he laughed and took a deep breath and that was it,'' Nichols said. Danny and Shannon Nichols were nervous. When news reports described the missing Isuzu, she said, ''This is just too close of a coincidence.'' Frightened, Shannon Nichols confided in a friend in Ohio who passed along the information to police. Besides Danny Nichols' testimony, prosecutors are expected to detail Chaudoin's involvement in cattle rustling and theft of ranch supplies. But the biggest falling out came when Patricia Doyle's father sold a valuable 68-acre parcel to Chaudoin for $10. The caretaker said Strawn deeded the property to him in return for years of loyal service. Chaudoin's friends and family say he had no reason to kill the Doyles. He already had a deed to the property. Others say he feared Patricia Doyle would fight the transaction. On June, 8, five days before she disappeared, she talked to a fertilizer company representative, Charles Lucroy. ''She said that usually when an employee worked for one person for a certain amount of years, they could see giving them a gold watch, but nothing else,'' Lucroy said. ''She said most people don't get a $500,000 to $600,000 piece of property for working for you for 25 years.'' Deland Family Ties Led Couple To Ranch The Caretaker Taught Patricia And Jack Doyle About The Spread. Now He's Charged With Murdering Them. By Frank Stanfield and Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff August 6, 1996 TAVARES — Two well-heeled Californians at first thought the grizzled caretaker would be their teacher in running the DeLand family's 5,600-acre ranch in Lake County. Gradually, the students began learning things they didn't want to know: Cattle were disappearing. Land was being deeded away from the ranch owners. Then the relationship between caretaker Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin and the transplanted Californians - the ranch owners' daughter and her husband - exploded. This week, prosecutors begin trying to convince a jury that the 71-year-old caretaker blasted Patricia and Jack Doyle point-blank with a shotgun and buried them within sight of his front door. The bodies of the Doyles were found in July 1995 under a hay bale on the Seminole Springs Ranch, regarded as the environmental jewel of Lake County. Attorneys began picking a jury Monday. The trial may last two weeks or more. Chaudoin, who has a history of violence, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of grand theft of the Doyles' truck. He is being held in the Lake County Jail without bail. If convicted, Chaudoin could face the death penalty. Potential buyers have offered up to $16 million for Seminole Woods, a spring-filled paradise near Sorrento. Owners Ted and Althea Strawn consider the land priceless. Increasingly, though, the elderly Volusia County couple couldn't take care of their ranch. That's when daughter Pat came home to DeLand with her husband. For Pat Doyle, 59, returning to Florida after working more than three decades as an oceanographer was a journey back to her roots. The same went for her husband, Jack, 62, a retired aerospace engineer and attorney, who has deep family ties to Volusia County. ''She and Jack were always the intellectuals,'' said Danny Gainin of DeLand, a longtime friend of the couple. Not long after the Doyles began running the ranch, they began to suspect Chaudoin of cattle rustling and of swindling Pat Doyle's father out of 68 acres of valuable ranch land. Chaudoin had worked on the Seminole Woods ranch for 22 years running the day-to-day operation. At first Chaudoin, a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman, shared his knowledge with the Doyles. ''They were anything but ranchers,'' said Chaudoin's 62-year-old brother, Rube. ''When I first met them, they told me how fortunate they were to have Junior out there. They depended totally on Junior to teach them how to run the machinery.'' The Doyles found a measure of satisfaction in learning how to mend fences, bale hay and raise cattle in those early days of 1993. But it was stressful, too, according to Sylvia Krump, a relative whose account is part of the massive court file on the case. ''She had to learn about the trees and the fertilizer and the cows, and her dad was unable to really help her, and he was not willing really to turn it over to her, to let her go with it. He was second-guessing, really, what she was doing, which made it doubly hard.'' Then, within months, Pat Doyle was butting heads with the strong-willed Chaudoin. At first, Pat Doyle had no problem with the arrangement. But later, entries in her diary began to reflect her growing irritation. ''What have we done to have to put up with Russell?'' she wrote. The diary also detailed what prosecutors later would say was a motive for murder. ''For some reason we've been getting only 50 percent calves. Should be getting 75 percent,'' she wrote. She would also jot down references to missing cattle and, finally, to devising accounting systems, including numbered ear tags for livestock. The couple also suspected that supplies were being stolen from the ranch, according to court records. But it was a dispute over a land deal that led to the Doyles' desire to kick Chaudoin off the ranch. The Doyles' daughter, Kristin Brittain, 40, told police that Chaudoin had ''somehow gotten my grandparents to sign a deed transferring 68 acres to Russell and his wife.'' The property was sold for $10 and ''other valuable considerations,'' according to public records. The Lake County property appraiser's office valued the land along State Road 44 at $176,878 - for tax purposes. Chaudoin said Strawn had promised him the land in return for his years of loyal service. Paul Huff, a longtime friend of Chaudoin's and a former co-worker at Seminole Woods, said the Doyles had threatened to take the caretaker to court over the land. Chaudoin, he said, was angry and was waving the deed around at a local bar as he told the story one night. Brittain told investigators that her parents were not going to fight it. ''I guess . . . in order to fight it, my mom would have to declare Ted incompetent, and she did not want to do that, so they were not going to do anything. They were not going to let Russell know that they even knew.'' There was another reason, too: Her parents were afraid, she said. Ten months before the Doyles were slain, a friend of Chaudoin's witnessed an angry confrontation between the caretaker and Pat Doyle. ''You can live here the rest of your life, but you're not going to get any property!'' she said. On June 12, 1995 - the day before the couple disappeared - a visibly upset Pat Doyle met a timber company supervisor and his wife at the gate of the ranch. She was worked up about Chaudoin. ''She said she wanted him off her property immediately,'' said Altha Davis, the supervisor's wife. The next day, Pat and Jack Doyle vanished. Deputies conducted a massive search but found no trace of the pair until July 5 when a relative of Chaudoin's led them to the Doyles' 1986 red Isuzu Trooper, ditched in the woods of rural Flagler County. Not long after that, they discovered freshly disturbed soil beneath a giant hay bale - 300 yards from Chaudoin's doorstep. The bodies of the Doyles were found 4 feet below the surface. Chaudoin, who helped with the search for the missing couple, has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. Now it is up to a jury to decide. Conflicting Stories Describe Slayings The State Told The Jury Of Revenge Factors, And The Defense Said Evidence Will Point To A Witness. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 7, 1996 TAVARES — Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin killed Patricia and Jack Doyle last summer for ''two of the oldest and most basic reasons - revenge and greed,'' Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross told jurors Tuesday. The California couple's disappearance last summer from the Seminole Woods ranch in Lake County sparked a massive search that ended when their bodies were found July 6 in a shallow grave beneath hay bales. Chaudoin, 71, caretaker for the ranch, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shotgun slayings. He also is charged with stealing the couple's car. In his opening statement to the jury, Gross said the key to the slayings is 68 acres of valuable land that Patricia Doyle's elderly parents, Ted and Althea Strawn, signed over to Chaudoin. Not so, retorted defense lawyer Michael Hatfield in his opening remarks. The land dispute has been greatly exaggerated, he said. Chaudoin worked hard on the 5,600-acre ranch, mostly by himself, Hatfield said. Sometimes Chaudoin threatened to quit, but Strawn promised him a piece of land ''on a handshake'' if he would stay on the job, Hatfield said. Strawn signed a warranty deed over to Chaudoin for the 68-acre outparcel on State Road 44 for $10 ''and other valuable consideration.'' ''That 'valuable consideration' was 20 years of hard work on that ranch,'' Hatfield said. But the Strawns, who owned 65 percent of the ranch, had put their land in a revocable trust. Such sales require the signatures of all family members, including the Doyles, according to reports in court records. Hatfield says, however, that there is no question, legally, that Chaudoin owned the land. Gross said both the Doyles and Chaudoin had contacted lawyers to fight the land deal. Hatfield also attacked the credibility of the prosecution's key witness Tuesday. Court records show that Danny Nichols told investigators he helped Chaudoin hide the Doyles' 1986 Isuzu Trooper on June 14, the day after the couple disappeared. Nichols said he thought he was going to the ranch to put up hay. He said he thought hiding the vehicle was ''weird'' but suspected the car belonged to poachers. He said he had never met the Doyles, didn't know they were missing and didn't know their vehicle. Until the weekend of July 4, that is, when TV news reports described the Doyles' Trooper. That is when Nichols said he realized it was probably their car he had helped hide. Hatfield told jurors - selected earlier Tuesday - that they would would hear a different story. ''I believe the evidence will show Danny Nichols killed the Doyles, very likely assisted by his wife, Shannon,'' Hatfield said. The investigation was botched, he said. Investigators did not search Nichols' 1982 Ford pickup or his house for evidence, he said. Danny Nichols told investigators he thought he was going to the ranch to help move hay. Instead, he was ordered to follow Chaudoin in the Trooper to a remote area in Flagler County. Chaudoin drove into the woods and then emerged a few minutes later with a license plate and tools in his hands. ''Don't ask no questions,'' Nichols quoted Chaudoin as saying. ''What's happened has happened.'' He said Chaudoin had him drive him back to the spot a week later. Shannon Nichols confided in her friend, Sherry Marks, in Ohio. ''I was scared for her,'' Marks told the Sentinel. So scared, she said, that she contacted the police in Ohio. On July 5 last year, Lake County deputy sheriffs, armed with the information Marks had provided Ohio authorities, had Nichols drive them to the Doyles' Isuzu. The next day, investigators unearthed the couple's bodies, riddled with double-00 buckshot from a 12-gauge shotgun. Witness's Tale Under Fire Russell Chaudoin's Lawyers Are Trying To Cast Doubt On The State's Key Witness In The Double-slaying Trial. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 8, 1996 TAVARES — Defense attorneys for Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin are tearing into the credibility of the state's key witness in the double-murder of a wealthy ranch couple - even before the witness takes the stand. Jurors Wednesday heard from the investigators and crime scene technicians who unearthed the buckshot- riddled bodies of Patricia Doyle, 59, and her husband, Jack, 62, in a shallow grave hidden beneath hay bales in July 1995 at Seminole Woods ranch. After searching the 5,600-acre ranch for days with hundreds of deputy sheriffs, things started happening fast on July 5, 1995, when investigators said a ''relieved'' Danny Nichols led them to the Doyles' 1986 Isuzu Trooper, investigators testified. Nichols, whose wife is related to Chaudoin's wife, Holly, said he thought he was going to the ranch on June 14, 1995, to put up hay. Instead, Nichols was asked to follow Chaudoin, 71, in the Isuzu to a remote wilderness area near Bunnell in Flagler County, he said. Technicians Wednesday explained how they searched for clues, including hair and fibers in the Isuzu. ''You didn't want to leave a stone unturned?'' defense attorney Michael Graves asked crime technician Jake Caudill, who replied that he did not. But Caudill and others conceded that that they did not search Nichols' 1982 Ford sedan or his house for traces of blood, the never-found murder weapon or the license plate that was removed from the Isuzu. Nor did investigators check to see whether Nichols had an arrest record, they testified. When Nichols, 38, was 19 years old, he was convicted of aggravated robbery in a Texas savings and loan robbery in which he was the driver. He got 10 years probation for turning state's evidence against others, according to court records. ''I guess you can't find these things if you don't look,'' Graves said as he ended his cross-examination of Caudill. Others who took the stand Wednesday included the Doyles' daughter, Kristin Brittain, 40, who looked at Chaudoin from across the courtroom. Brittain shook her head and fought back tears as she identified her mother's diary. The Doyles, after enjoying successful professional careers in California, returned to Florida in March 1994 to the run the massive Lake County ranch for her aging parents, Ted and Althea Strawn, who live in nearby DeLeon Springs. The Doyles' relationship with Chaudoin, who had been ranch caretaker for more than 20 years, was unraveling rapidly by late May last year, according to painting contractor and longtime Doyle family acquaintance Arthur M. Tollman. Tollman said he witnessed Patricia Doyle telling Chaudoin there would be no more uninvited swimmers in the ranch's springs, including him. Tollman said Chaudoin started to reply, ''Well, your daddy said . . .'' but she snapped, ''Daddy doesn't run this place anymore.'' Prosecutors cite the deteriorating relationship and a controversial land transaction between the Strawns and Chaudoin as motive for Chaudoin to ambush the Doyles sometime in mid-June. Also on the third day of the trial, an irritated Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett rebuffed State Attorney Brad King's request for defense attorneys to turn over a letter that Chaudoin wrote to his son, Jimmy. The letter details Chaudoin's version of the disappearance and slaying of the Doyles. Under state law, attorneys from both sides must share evidence before a trial begins in a process known as ''discovery.'' The one exception, Lockett ruled last week, were statements made by a defendant. Wednesday, prosecutors again asked for the letter, even suggesting a search warrant be issued for the court. ''There's not going to be a search warrant until a higher court says I have to,'' Lockett said. Lockett chided the prosecutor for continuing to protest the issue. Doyles' Son Testifies About Land Dispute The Slain Couple Were Furious At Russell Chaudoin's Claim To A Slice Of The Family Ranch, Their Son Testified. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 9, 1996 TAVARES — Multimillion-dollar real-estate offers. Deeds and trusts. Technical, even arcane subjects for jurors - except when they are described as motives for murder. Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, 71, has claimed a piece of the rich 5,600-acre Seminole Woods ranch, where he labored for more than 20 years as ranch caretaker. He claimed he had been promised the land by ranch owner Ted Strawn, witnesses said. But when Strawn's daughter Patricia Doyle and her husband, Jack, heard about Chaudoin's claim to 68 acres, they vowed he would never get his hands on the property, said Steven Craig Doyle, their son. A little over a year later, in June 1995, the Doyles were dead - hidden in a shallow grave beneath a hay bale. Steven Doyle set the stage for jurors Thursday in Chaudoin's murder trial, quoting his mother in what he said was an angry exchange in October 1993. ''Ted has promised a lot of things to a lot of people,'' Patricia Doyle said, then added that her father would never intend so valuable a piece of property to be passed on. The entire ranch, dubbed ''the jewel of Lake County,'' has been the subject of $12 million real-estate offers. The Doyles planned to hold on to the 68-acre out parcel on State Road 44 until the Strawns died and they had to sell the property to pay inheritance taxes. Chaudoin said he would fight them in court, if he had to, said Steven Doyle. ''Save your money,'' said Jack Doyle, who was becoming more and more angry over the exchange. The elder Doyle, a California engineer and lawyer, said it would take other family members' signatures for the deal to be legal. He told Chaudoin it would never happen, his son testified. But by December 1993, Chaudoin would get his deed anyway - a warranty deed signed by Ted Strawn and his wife, Althea. Not legal, testified Frank Royce, Lake County's deputy property appraiser. He would not give ownership to Chaudoin on the county's record books after meeting with Chaudoin in 1994. Not legal, testified Strawn's attorney, Alex Ford of DeLand. Chaudoin's defense attorney, Michael Hatfield, produced a 1988 document that he said was a power of attorney giving Strawn the right to transfer title. After looking at the 1988 document, Ford said it was a ''power of authority'' - giving Strawn certain rights, dating back 40 years or more when Strawn shared the land with his brothers - but not power of attorney to transfer title. The right to transfer property belonged to a trust, Ford said. Strawn could have revoked the trust, but only after giving 30 days written notice to the trustee - Patricia Doyle, he said. Hatfield tried again, getting Ford to concede that not until this year has Chaudoin's claim to the 68 acres been contested in a lawsuit. ''They (Patricia and Jack Doyle) were afraid to (fight it),'' Ford said. The Doyles were concerned for the Strawns' safety if they fought Chaudoin's attempt to get the land, Ford said. In testimony with the jury out of the courtroom, Steven Doyle said his mother was angry with his father for losing his temper with Chaudoin. ''Never confront Russell,'' she said. ''You don't know what he's going to do.'' Victims' Son Recounts Bizarre Phone Call From Slaying Suspect Steven Doyle Received The Rambling Call Two Days Before His Parents Were Found In A Makeshift Grave. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 10, 1996 TAVARES — Steven Craig Doyle was reeling with the news that his parents, Patricia and Jack Doyle, were missing but he quickly gathered his thoughts - and a pencil and paper - when his family's ranch caretaker called on July 4, 1995, with a rambling, out-of-character tale about his parents. Jurors, along with Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, listened carefully to the tale Friday. Caretaker Chaudoin, 71, has been charged with murder and grand theft auto in the elder Doyles' shotgun slayings. According to Steven Doyle: Chaudoin told him that he had last seen the senior Doyles near the barn, and that they were arguing. He said Patricia Doyle was ''standing, shaking her fists; she was very mad.'' ''Jack won't talk to me!'' Chaudoin quoted Patricia Doyle as saying. ''I've got to get away from Ted and Althea,'' she supposedly told Chaudoin, referring to her parents, ranch owners Ted and Althea Strawn of DeLeon Springs. ''They were discussing something very heavy,'' Chaudoin told Steven Doyle. Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross asked Doyle if his parents used strong language. ''No.'' Was his mother in the habit of confiding in Chaudoin? ''No.'' Had he ever seen his mother that angry? ''I've never seen her that angry,'' he said. Much of Chaudoin's commentary was rambling and impossible to follow, Doyle said, including something about Patricia Doyle asking him to take her ''to higher ground.'' Chaudoin also said that ''he was sorry,'' and that he had tried to help Doyle's parents, but they increasingly did not want his help. Doyle said Chaudoin ''panicked'' when he brought up a different subject: a bitter land dispute between Doyle's parents and the caretaker over 68 acres deeded to Chaudoin by Doyle's grandparents. Chaudoin has maintained that he was promised the valuable parcel of land by the Strawns for 20-plus years of hard work on the ranch. Patricia and Jack Doyle said the deed, signed by the Strawns, was not legal. Transfer of property had to be approved by other family members, too. It would never happen, they vowed. ''Chaudoin said he would get the property one way or the other,'' ranch fertilizer salesman Charles Lucroy testified Friday. Steven Doyle, who is his grandparents' guardian, had gone to their home to help search for his parents. The day after Doyle's bizarre conversation with Chaudoin, Danny Nichols led investigators to the Doyles' missing red 1986 Isuzu Trooper. Nichols' wife, Shannon, is related to Chaudoin's wife, Holly. Chaudoin's Wife: Nichols Told Lies On Witness Stand The Witness Said He Had Never Seen The Slain Couple - But Holly Chaudoin Recalled Pointing Them Out At A Party. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 14, 1996 TAVARES — The wife of ranch caretaker Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin on Tuesday contradicted the testimony of the state's star witness. Holly Chaudoin testified that Danny Nichols - who said under oath Monday that he had never seen murder victims Jack and Patricia Doyle or their distinctive sport vehicle before they were killed - had in fact been within 20 feet of the couple before they disappeared. On July 5, 1995, Nichols told investigators that Russell Chaudoin, 71, tricked him into helping hide the couple's vehicle June 14, 1995. Three weeks later, the bodies of the Doyles were found beneath a hay bale on the Seminole Woods ranch after a massive search by Lake and Volusia County deputy sheriffs. Russell Chaudoin wept when his wife entered the courtroom, where he is on trial on two first-degree murder charges and a charge of grand theft auto. Holly Chaudoin, who was trembling, wearing hospital identification bracelets and looking frail, took the stand to try to discredit Nichols, 38. She also aimed to offset the damning testimony of Nichols' wife, Shannon, who is her niece. Danny Nichols led authorities to the Doyles' 1986 Isuzu Trooper on July 5, 1995 - three weeks after the Doyles disappeared. He said he had never laid eyes on the Doyles or their vehicle when Russell Chaudoin asked him to follow him to a remote spot in Flagler County where they hid the couple's Trooper. Danny Nichols said he thought he was going to bale hay on the Seminole Woods ranch where Russell Chaudoin was caretaker. But Holly Chaudoin said she had pointed out the daughter of ranch owners Ted and Althea Strawn and her Isuzu at a party on the ranch a few weeks before the Doyles disappeared on June 13, 1995. ''I said, 'There's Mr. and Mrs. Strawn's daughter and son-in-law,' '' Holly Chaudoin said. Also testifying about Danny Nichols' presence at the party were Russell Chaudoin's friends George Baker and Roland ''Hap'' Goble. When his wife testified, Russell Chaudoin tried to blink back tears and then buried his head in his hands. Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross, speaking in soft tones, asked her about the stress of seeing her husband arrested on murder charges. ''You're seeking professional help now?'' he asked. ''I understand you believe you can foretell the future?'' And he got her to talk about seeing an attorney about book and movie rights to the story of the slayings. Holly Chaudoin also testified that Shannon Nichols made a chilling remark months before the couple were blasted at point-blank range with 12-gauge shotgun pellets. Russell Chaudoin was drinking beer one night and grumbling about the Doyles' efforts to block the transfer of 68 acres of valuable ranch land to him and his wife. ''She (Shannon) said she'd kill 'em,'' Holly Chaudoin said. Shannon Nichols also asked Russell Chaudoin about the Doyles' schedule and whether they carried large amounts of cash, Holly Chaudoin testified. One defense witness Tuesday testified about Russell Chaudoin's relationship to Patricia Doyle's father, Ted Strawn, who owns the 5,600-acre ranch, saying Chaudoin was more than a caretaker. ''It was a partnership,'' said Robert Taft of Orlando, a friend of the Strawns. Taft, who once had an option to buy the ranch, said Russell Chaudoin was to be given the 68 acres in case something happened to Ted Strawn. Russell Chaudoin was to be allowed to live on the ranch as long as he lived, provided he carried out his work routine, Taft said. ''But if he (Strawn) sold the property, he (Chaudoin) was to get $500,000 for his services in bonus, or 5 percent of whatever the ranch sold for,'' Taft said. Even at 5 percent, it could come to a hefty sum. One offer for the ranch, in 1985, was for $24 million, Taft said. Jurors also heard from a real estate developer, Sid Roche, who testified that Strawn had promised the 68-acre tract to Russell Chaudoin. Monday, a prosecution witness said Russell Chaudoin felt threatened by the Doyles, fearing he was going to lose his home on the ranch and the security of the 68-acre tract, valued on Lake County tax rolls at more than $176,000. Russell Chaudoin might take the stand today, defense attorneys said. State Attorney Brad King said he will seek the death penalty if Russell Chaudoin is convicted. Jury Considers Evidence Minus Chaudoin Testimony By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 15, 1996 TAVARES — Did Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin kill his ranch bosses with two blasts of a shotgun and hide their bodies beneath a hay bale? Or is the former, longtime caretaker of the sprawling Seminole Woods ranch innocent? Jurors in Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett's courtroom are expected to answer the question today. Deliberations are set to begin this morning. But jurors will do so without hearing testimony from the one man who might know what happened to Patricia and Jack Doyle on June 13, 1995. Chaudoin, 71, had to make one of the biggest decisions in his life Wednesday, when he decided not face tough cross-examination if he took the stand to defend himself against two first-degree murder charges and a charge of stealing the Doyles' red 1986 Isuzu Trooper. ''The decision was being made as late as this morning,'' defense attorney Michael Graves said Wednesday. ''It was definitely my client's decision.'' Most of the day was devoted to giving the lawyers a chance to make their final arguments. For defense lawyer Michael Hatfield, it boiled down to this: Chaudoin didn't do it and the prosecution's chief witness Danny Nichols was lying. Nichols led police to the Isuzu on July 6, 1995. It was hidden in woods near Bunnell. Nichols' wife, Shannon, is the niece of Chaudoin's wife, Holly. Nichols said he followed Chaudoin, who was driving a red sport vehicle on June 14. After stashing the vehicle in the woods, Nichols said, Chaudoin emerged from the brush carrying a license plate and a few tools. About a week later, Chaudoin had Nichols take him out to the site again, Nichols said. Later, the Nicholses said they would come to realize that the red vehicle was the Doyles' Isuzu. No fingerprints were found on the Isuzu, no hairs or fibers and no blood, Hatfield said. Nor did authorities find the murder weapon, or a pair of boots that Chaudoin supposedly taped up to hide his sole tread, Hatfield said. But authorities didn't check Nichols' home or his car, Hatfield said. Hatfield also said that crime scene technicians could only find six of 24 shotgun pellets that were fired at the Doyles, and suggested that the couple had been killed elsewhere. Two of the pellets didn't even have the same chemical composition as the others, he said. Prosecutors fought back in their closing statements. ''Why would Danny and Shannon Nichols want to kill two total strangers?'' said Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross. He said the Doyles were killed in the hay lot of the 5,600-acre ranch. Near their bodies were a glasses case, a straw hat and two spent shotgun shells. One of those shells, found in the grave, was too corroded to evaluate, but one had tool markings identical to an unfired shell found in Chaudoin's home, a crime lab expert said. And then, there was a deed for 68 acres of valuable land that Chaudoin said was promised him by Patricia Doyle's father, longtime ranch owner Ted Strawn. The Doyles were angry over the transaction, and their son, Steven Craig Doyle, witnessed an angry exchange between his parents and Chaudoin over the property in October 1993. ''At that point, Pat and Jack Doyle set themselves on a collision course with Russell Sage Chaudoin,'' said State Attorney Brad King. ''This was a robbery to take property,'' King said. Stories about conflict over the 68 acres were ''blown up,'' Hatfield said. ''They were grossly exaggerated.'' Hatfield said Chaudoin had gone to a lawyer in 1994 to see about fighting the dispute in court. But Chaudoin, who described himself as ''a poor man,'' never came up with the money to fight the battle in court, a battle that could last up to six years, prosecutors said. Cattle theft also was a motive, prosecutors said. Hatfield said that was nonsense, too. ''There were fences down everywhere,'' he said. But Gross said Pat Doyle had started keeping extensive cattle inventory records in the Isuzu. The secret grave of the Doyles was found, and their vehicle - but the cattle records still have not been found. When the Doyles returned to Florida from California to help her elderly parents run the ranch, Chaudoin's way of life was threatened, Gross said. ''They stood up to him. It was the biggest mistake they ever made.'' Chaudoin's Fate Awaits Verdict After Deliberating All Day Thursday, The Jury In The Double Murder Trial Still Had Questions For The Judge. It Is To Reconvene Today. By Frank Stanfield of The Sentinel Staff August 16, 1996 TAVARES — Jurors tried all day but could not reach a verdict Thursday in the first-degree murder trial of Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin. They are to start deliberations again this morning. Chaudoin, 71, could go to the electric chair if he is convicted of the June 13, 1995, shotgun slayings of Patricia and Jack Doyle. He also is charged with stealing their 1986 Isuzu Trooper. Patricia Doyle, 59, daughter of Ted and Althea Strawn of DeLeon Springs, had come back to Florida in 1994 with her husband, Jack, 62, to run the 5,600-acre Seminole Woods ranch in Lake County for her elderly parents. The 12-member jury began deliberations at 10 a.m. By 5 p.m., Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett was ready to send the panel home when jurors submitted a question related to jury instructions on grand theft auto. ''In the second provision, may the words 'and heirs' be added immediately after Patricia Doyle?'' She was the owner of the stolen Isuzu. Lockett told the jurors they would have to use their own judgment, weighing evidence and testimony, to arrive at the answer - and the verdict. It won't be easy. In a TV show, prosecutors produce the ''smoking gun''; in the Chaudoin case, they don't even have the murder weapon. Stacked along the wall in the courtroom are rifles, a .44-caliber Magnum handgun and one shotgun - but not the 12-gauge shotgun that fired two double-00 buckshot shells at point-blank range. Prosecutors have a circumstantial case, but they say it is a chain of events that points to premeditated murder. The Doyles were contesting a deed for 68 acres of valuable land, signed over by the Strawns to Chaudoin. Chaudoin said he was promised the land as a reward for more than 20 years of loyal service as caretaker of the ranch. Prosecutors also allege that Chaudoin had been stealing cattle until the Doyles arrived in 1994. Defense attorney Michael Hatfield said Chaudoin is not guilty. Even if the jury believed he killed the Doyles in ''a fit of violence one day when he is told he is to be fired - it is not first-degree murder,'' he said in closing arguments Wednesday. One couple testified that, when they visited the ranch on June 12, 1995, Patricia Doyle indicated she wanted Chaudoin off the property right away, and talked about dismissing him. The next day, the Doyles disappeared, sparking a massive search by Volusia County and Lake County deputy sheriffs until the bodies were discovered beneath a hay bale on July 6, 1995. The defense also hammered away at the state's key witness, Danny Nichols, who led police to the stolen Isuzu on July 5, 1995. He said he thought he was going to put up hay on the ranch when Chaudoin had him follow him in the sporty red Isuzu to a remote hiding spot in Flagler County on June 14, 1995. Crime scene technicians in July 1995 pored over the Isuzu looking for fingerprints, hairs, blood and other trace evidence, and missing cattle inventory records, but without results. They did not search Nichols' car or house, however, defense attorneys said. Jurors also sat through hours and hours of technical legal testimony about deeds and trusts and real-estate transactions related to the deed. They also heard testimony from a visitor to the ranch, who said Chaudoin talked about how it would be possible to hide bodies in swamps and turn them into ''alligator bait.'' Then, jurors heard testimony from Chaudoin's wife, Holly, who was trembling and still wearing plastic identification bracelets from the hospital where she has been seeking ''professional help.'' She said Nichols and his wife, Shannon Nichols, were lying. Holly Chaudoin told Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross she could foretell the future, and had been talking to an attorney about book and movie rights to her husband's story. No one knows how that story will end - not even the jury, so far. Chaudoin Gets Life Term State Wanted Death Penalty By Frank Stanfield and Mary Murphy of The Sentinel Staff August 17, 1996 TAVARES — Russell ''Junior'' Chaudoin, 71, the former caretaker of Seminole Woods ranch, sagged slightly and hung his head Friday when the jury announced it had found him guilty of first-degree murder in the shotgun slayings of his bosses Patricia and Jack Doyle. His family sobbed bitterly, their anguish only slightly eased when Circuit Judge Jerry Lockett followed the jury's recommendation of a life sentence. State Attorney Brad King had sought the death penalty. ''I can't take it; I can't take it!'' his sister Pearl Boyd cried, collapsing into the arms of her brother Rufus ''Rube'' Chaudoin in the hallway. ''Dear God in heaven,'' she said, sobbing. Before the jury came back with its verdict, Rube Chaudoin had the family hold hands and pray for justice. ''It's a terrible thing what's happened,'' Rube Chaudoin said. ''The evidence that was presented was all circumstantial.'' Prosecutors conceded at the beginning of the two-week trial that it was a circumstantial case, but they laid out a chain of events that told of a deteriorating relationship between the longtime caretaker, who was used to having things his way, and Patricia Doyle, daughter of ranch owners Ted and Althea Strawn, who was used to having things her way. The Doyles left lucrative professional careers in Southern California to come back to DeLeon Springs in 1994 to care for her elderly parents and to take care of the 5,600-acre ranch in nearby Lake County. But from the spring of 1994 until June 13, 1995, when they were blasted point-blank with a shotgun, the relationship between the Doyles and Chaudoin deteriorated steadily. At the center of the brewing storm was a 68-acre tract deeded to Chaudoin by Ted Strawn, a parcel Chaudoin said was promised him for more than 20 years of service on the ranch. Pat Doyle told him, ''My dad's promised a lot of things to a lot of people.'' Jack Doyle told him the deed wasn't legal and that family members would never add their names to the transfer of the outparcel that is valued on Lake County tax rolls at more than $176,000. The ranch itself was the subject of several near-deals in the 1980s, drawing offers of $12 million to $24 million, witnesses testified. Jurors also heard testimony from Danny Nichols, whose wife, Shannon, is the niece of Chaudoin's wife, Holly. On July 6, 1995, Danny Nichols led investigators to the Doyles' stolen 1986 Isuzu Trooper, stashed in woods near Bunnell. He said Chaudoin drove the Trooper, and he followed. It was a key part of the state's case, but jurors Friday came back with a not-guilty verdict on the grand theft auto charge. The Doyles' family was pleased with the outcome of the trial, King said. ''I really think he's guilty,'' said Jack Doyle's sister, Rose Rempe. ''I don't think there's anyone else they can point to in place of him.'' Doyle's brother, Terry, an attorney in Winter Park, described the loss as ''devastating.'' The two brothers were restoring the family home on Minnesota Avenue in DeLand. The loss was also devastating to the Doyles' only daughter, Kristin Brittain, 30. She testified during the penalty phase about her close-knit family. She wept when she recalled the words her father said to her on her wedding day: ''Remember, patience and kindness.'' She said her father couldn't stand to be away from his family. At night, he and her mother would take walks and hold hands. Steven Craig Doyle said his mother, who studied fossils for an oceanography institute, volunteered to help in her children's scouting and soccer efforts and liked to maintain the church garden. Jack Doyle was an engineer on top-secret defense projects until he went back to school to earn a law degree. Assistant State Attorney Bill Gross argued that Chaudoin killed the Doyles for two basic reasons: greed and revenge. He said it was a cold, calculated murder, as evidenced by the couple's burial under a hay bale on the ranch. Deputy sheriffs from Lake and Volusia counties searched for days before discovering the bodies. Michael Graves, who assisted Michael Hatfield for the defense, told jurors, ''There is nothing we can do or say to bring Pat and Jack Doyle back. ''It's time for the killing to stop.''