Crime

Who killed pawnshop owner? Miami jury to decide identity of killer

Martin Sprung, owner of AAA Pawnbrokers of North Miami, inspects a piece of jewelry in 2003. He was shot to death in 2008. His accused killer, Stevenson Charles, is on trial for murder.
Martin Sprung, owner of AAA Pawnbrokers of North Miami, inspects a piece of jewelry in 2003. He was shot to death in 2008. His accused killer, Stevenson Charles, is on trial for murder. Miami Herald

Stevenson Charles and Passion Carr walked into the AAA Pawnbrokers of North Miami. One of them shot and killed Marty Sprung.

Exactly who pulled the trigger will soon be up to jurors, who began hearing testimony Thursday in the November 2008 slaying of a North Miami pawnshop owner.

Prosecutors say Charles, a convicted felon known on the streets as “Chico,” shot and killed Sprung and stole the slain man’s gun and SUV. He forced Carr, a quasi-girlfriend, to help him flee, prosecutors said.

Cops found a piece of paper with Charles’ fingerprint underneath Sprung’s body. A few days after the murder, police found Charles with Sprung’s stolen gun.

“The State of Florida can look at this defendant and say he is guilty,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Christine Hernandez-Baldwin told jurors during the opening statements.

Carr, who served five years in prison after pleading guilty as an accessory, is the star witness, implicating her former lover as the gunman who suddenly fired at the pawnshop owner. But Charles insists that Carr, then a petite 18-year-old, got mad when Sprung spit on her — and it was she who fired the gun.

“She has been bullied — bullied in school and that becomes important here,” defense attorney Terry Lenamon said.

Thursday was the first day of trial for Charles, 35, whose case has a long and tortured history in Miami-Dade circuit court.

Sprung, 65, was well-known in North Miami, where he had operated the pawnshop for years.

He was the subject of a Miami Herald profile in 2003. A few years later, Sprung was honored by the city for helping save the life of a nearby business owner who had been shot. He called 911 and put pressure on the gunshot wound.

Sprung himself was shot and killed on Nov. 28, 2008.

North Miami police identified Carr and Charles, who was first jailed on a federal gun charge, as the culprits.

The case became complicated when the former prosecutor, without telling his supervisors or Sprung’s family, dropped the case against Carr, intending to use her as a witness. The decision rankled supervisors, who later secured an indictment against Carr, who was rearrested.

Carr, now 26, agreed to serve five years in prison and is now on probation.

Charles is facing life in prison if convicted. Trial continues Friday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Stephen Millan.

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