The Carol Hutto Case

On December 13, 1976, sixteen year old Carol Hutto left her Largo Florida home saying she was running to the store and would be back soon.  In reality she was going to meet a boy.... James Kuenn.  The following day her body was found in a pond, half dressed and weighed down, just a mile from her home.

The community was devastated and while James Kuenn was quickly on the police radar, little could be proven.  As so many cases do, this one went cold.

Investigators decided to reopen the case in 1994.  It was learned that Kuenn was now a U.S. Navy Petty Officer and soon the NCIS were involved.  In July of 1998 he was talked to again and it did not take long before he started telling a story, one that would change later, but a story none the less.

Kuenn would first say that he and Carol had met at a nearby abandoned house. He claimed they talked, kissed and had sex.  He claimed that after they had had consensual sex that they were involved in "horseplay" in which she had fallen and hit her head and lost consciousness.  He believed she was dead and had taken her to the pond because he was scared. 

Just before his trial he would change his story and the new story would be taped and shown to his jury.  In the new story he admitted that he had attempted to have sex with Carol but that she had resisted him by hitting and scratching him. She then began to yell and he grabbed her by the throat to get her to stop. When that failed he found a 2 X 4 and hit her over the head.  He then poked her with a stick in the chest and choked her.  He claimed to do the latter things to throw investigators "off track" although admittedly I have no idea how he thought this through.  To be fair James was also 16 or 17 years old at the time. He then dumped her body in the pond, attempting to weigh it down.

An autopsy revealed that no matter which of James' stories were true, although the latter seems the more plausible, it truly did not matter what happened before she went into the water.  Carol's cause of death was drowning, meaning she was alive when she was put in the water. 

The jury took a total of twenty-two minutes to come up with a verdict of guilty of murder in the 1st degree.  He was sentenced to life in prison.  According to 1976 standards, which is what had to be used James will be eligible for parole after serving twenty-five years.  I noticed that this notation was made in the research that I found, but what I did not find were the standards for juvenile convictions, of which James qualified as in 1976.  I have not seen anything on any appeals.  The Department of Corrections website was less than helpful as it simply states he is sentenced to life which of course he is but is entitled to parole which it does not show.   

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