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Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Porter receives 2 Life sentences plus 30 Years

After five years, several trials that were cut short, and lots of delays, on Monday November 5th, Michael Darnell Porter was sentenced. After being convicted of first degree murder of Joyce Burrow of Bell, Porter received two Life in Prison sentences, to be served one after another for the First Degree Murder and Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling. In addition, he was given 30 years for the Sexual Battery conviction. He will also be classified as a Sexual Predator.
The case began during the early morning hours of July 24, 2013, when then 53 year old Michael Darnell Porter broke into the back door of Burrow’s home with a screw driver. Joyce Burrow did not know Porter and was not associated with him in any way before he broke into her home. He bound Burrow with her clothing and battered and raped her. He then left her bound while he washed the sheets with the intent to destroy his DNA. He also used a sponge to try and remove his DNA from a stain on the bed. Apparently while Porter was busy trying to destroy the DNA, Burrow fled her home and ran down the road trying to reach the home of her nephew. Porter ran her down and ran over her several times with his F150 pick up truck. As a result of her injuries, which included many broken bones, she lay dying in the road.
After hearing a noise, her nephew John White turned on the porch light and found his Aunt Joyce laying in the road near his home. The Whites called 911 and while Heather White was still on the phone with 911, Joyce Burrow said “He broke in,” “He raped me,” and “I ran from him.” All her statements were recorded on the 911 call tape. Her very words may have played a huge part in convicting her murderer, Michael Darnell Porter.
The week long trial began on Monday October 29, and lasted until the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three counts on Friday afternoon. While in deliberation the jury asked to hear the 911 call a second time and then deliberated once again returning around 4 p.m. with their verdict. Circuit Court Judge Phillip A. Pena waited until the family returned to the courtroom at 4:35 before the verdict was read. Guilty on all three counts, of First Degree Murder, Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling and Sexual Battery. After the verdict was read Porter looked at his attorneys and laughed.
Judge Pena thanked the Jury for their service and hard work, telling the jury it had been a long week for everyone.
After the jury returned with the guilty verdict on Friday afternoon November 2, Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz said, “Law enforcement has worked so hard on this case.” Sheriff Schultz talked about how the mutual agencies had worked together as one team to see their mission of getting a conviction completed. Sheriff Schultz said, “Robert Willis and Glynn Bryan and the District Attorney’s Office have done an amazing job with the trial.” He went on to say how grateful and thankful his office is for the jury’s verdict. He also asked the citizens of Gilchrist County to keep praying for Ms. Joyce’s family, saying, “This is the beginning phase for her family to heal.”
On Monday afternoon November 5, Porter entered the courtroom dressed in orange prison attire and escorted by Gilchrist County Deputies. Porter sat and listened as several members of Joyce Burrow’s family read about what a wonderful daughter and mother she was.
Her sister Denise Miller wrote, “Joyce was a sister, best friend, beloved aunt and daughter. She was our mother’s companion, they did everything together. Our father thinks he could have protected her if he had been there. This has broken him. She had a beautiful life before she was bound, raped and ran over twice by Porter.” She requested that the Judge give him the maximum sentence.
Joyce Burrow’s son, Jason recalled his last conversation with his mother when she said that all she wanted from life was to be a good grandmother and to take care of her parents who are 85 and 82 years old. He talked about how Porter had stared at his family throughout each trial. Then he told those who gathered in the courtroom, “My family and this community will not back down, we want justice served.”
Judge Pena said before he sentenced Porter that this is a civilized society and we should be able to live in our homes and feel safe. He went on to describe the events of the evening when Joyce Burrow was murdered. Judge Pena said the jury heard her dying words and returned a guilty verdict. The judge looked at Porter and said, “But nothing we do here today will take away the pain you have caused.” Then Judge Pena gave him the maximum sentence allowed by law for all three charges.
As everyone was leaving the courtroom Burrow’s sister, Denise Miller said, “The family would like to thank the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office, First Responders, FDLE, Robert Willis, Glenn Bryan, Carla Coarsey, the jury and all the witnesses who had to come to court again and again for each trial.”
Assistant State Attorney Robert Willis and Assistant State Attorney Glenn Bryan prosecuted the case and have worked tirelessly on all aspects of the trial. “I am very pleased with the verdict. It was very important to me, and Co-counsel Glenn Bryan, to not only obtain justice for Joyce but to also honor her memory in the process. Sadly, the guilty verdict in this case cannot undo the harm and hurt done by the Defendant, but at least he will never again be free to harm anyone else.” Assistant State Attorney Willis said that one of the hardest things for him personally was how Porter glared at the witnesses, the Burrow family, and law enforcement during court. “His callous demeanor was shocking,” Willis said. He also talked about the delays in the trial being hard on everyone involved, although he understood how necessary the delays were to prevent the case from coming back on an appeal in the future.
Willis said he felt that matching Porter’s DNA with a stain on the bed was crucial in this case. Only one person in 400 quadrillion has the same DNA as another, or in another words only one in 54 times the total population of the earth has that exact DNA. Willis also said that everyone involved in the case could not have done a better job. He praised the jury for listening and using good old fashioned common sense to conclude a guilty verdict.
After Porter was sentenced and finger printed, the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office transported him to the State of Florida Department of Corrections in Lake Butler, to begin spending the rest of his life in prison.
Michael Darnell Porter is a violent criminal. He’s been married four times and works as a long distance truck driver. In 1988, he was convicted of sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery of a woman who did not know him in Pasco County. Though he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Porter was released in 2002, after serving 15 years in prison. After a federal appeals court overturned Porter’s conviction, Porter filed a lawsuit against former Pasco County Sheriff Bob White, saying that investigators covered up evidence that would have cleared him.
Porter has been in and out of trouble with local authorities since moving to the tri-county area. In 2006, a Gilchrist County woman, who Porter was reportedly living with at the time, filed a petition for injunction for protection against domestic violence. Eleven days later the woman withdrew her petition. In Levy County, Porter has had four arrests, including a Christmas Day battery charge in 2011.
Ms. Joyce was a much loved and well known member of the community. She worked for over 20 years at the Hitchcock’s food store in Trenton and lived in Bell.