Killer’s appeal rejected in Orange Park woman's death

By Chase Carle
Posted 6/6/18

TALLAHASSEE – The First District Court of Appeal this week denied the appeal of a Ponte Veda Beach man convicted of the 2011 manslaughter of an Orange Park woman.

The ruling affirms that Evan …

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Killer’s appeal rejected in Orange Park woman's death

Posted

TALLAHASSEE – The First District Court of Appeal this week denied the appeal of a Ponte Veda Beach man convicted of the 2011 manslaughter of an Orange Park woman.

The ruling affirms that Evan Cook Wilhelm did receive appropriate legal counsel regarding a plea agreement offer in the case involving 20-year-old Ashley Cowie, 2009 graduate of St. Johns Country Day School.

According to the investigation, Wilhelm had been drinking when he shot Cowie with a loaded AK-47 at a fraternity party the two attended in January 2011 at Florida State University. Second Judicial Circuit Court Judge Kevin J. Carrol had appealed Wilhelm’s case to the First District on grounds that Wilhelm’s 20-year sentence was illegal.

Now 28, Wilhelm was convicted in July 2012 of manslaughter, possession of a firearm on school property and culpable negligence with injury. According to the ruling, as Wilhelm pointed the rifle around the room, the rifle went off, and struck Cowie in the chest and killed her.

Wilhelm pleaded no contest to the charges. The court sentenced Wilhelm to 20 years in prison followed by 10 years’ probation. Wilhelm appealed the sentence claiming multiple counts of ineffective assistance of counsel regarding the plea and sentencing process.

Wilhelm’s attorneys asserted that his counsel offered ineffective assistance by failing to tell him about a plea offer, failing to give good advice about the plea offer and not taking advantage of a time frame that could have seen him tried as a youthful offender rather than an adult.

According to the judgment, Wilhelm said he was never informed of a plea deal that would have resulted in 10 years in prison and that he would have taken the offer if he’d been told of it. Two of Wilhelm’s attorneys said Wilhelm was never informed of the plea deal, however, Wilhelm’s other two attorneys testified that they told Wilhelm about the plea deal and he rejected it. The trial court credited the testimony of the two attorneys who said Wilhelm rejected the deal. The appeals court upheld the original decision.

The same attorneys also testified that they considered the youthful offender sentence originally but also stated that they felt they offered the best defense possible for Wilhelm. The trial court stated “that the failure to explore sentencing under the Youthful Offender Act would simply not have made any difference in the outcome.” The appeals court upheld that decision as well.

The court denied Wilhelm’s claim that the sentence given was an illegal general sentence. While the original judgment could be viewed that way, because the charge of possession of a firearm on school property was not properly addressed in the initial judgment, there was a corrected judgment issued that corrected any errors in the original judgment.

The corrected judgment showed that Wilhelm was sentenced to time served on the counts of possession of a firearm on school property and culpable negligence with injury. The 20-year sentence only applied to the manslaughter charge and therefore was not a general sentence.

Wilhelm is serving his sentence in the Wakulla Correctional Institution in Crawfordville, Florida.

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