Two different kinds of heartbreak stood feet apart this morning in court as Martine Murat stood accused of chasing down Stephanie Geary, ramming her car, and fatally shooting her in the head as she ran for her life.
"I just hope, I just pray, this is one big misunderstanding," older brother Vincent Murat told Circuit Judge Susan R. Lubitz, while Geary's aunt, Vicki Conner, stood by.
Murat, 25, turned himself in and was booked just after midnight today into the Palm Beach County Jail, charged with first degree murder with a firearm in the Labor Day attack. Lubitz ordered him held without bond.
What deputies originally had suspected was a road rage incident Sept. 7 turned out to be the violent act of a spurned boyfriend, a Palm Beach County Sheriff's report says.
An acquaintance told detectives he'd driven the woman, nicknamed "Special," to a fast-food restaurant at Purdy Lane and Military Trail, then saw her walk across the street and meet with a man at a convenience store.
The acquaintance, Henry McNish, told deputies she then jumped in his car and begged him to drive off because her former boyfriend had put a gun to her head.
He said he raced toward sheriff's office headquarters, on Gun Club Road west of Congress Avenue, so Geary could file a report.
Near Kirk Road and Gun Club Road, McNish said, the Honda rammed his car and forced it off the road. He said he and Geary leaped out and ran.
McNish said he jumped over a fence and within seconds, heard one gunshot. He eventually circled back to the car, where he found Geary, lying on the road with a single shot to the head.
Geary was taken by helicopter to Delray Medical Center, where she died six days later.
McNish told investigators Geary had been working as a prostitute. Jail records show Geary was arrested once, in October, on a misdemeanor prostitution charge that later was dropped.
A clerk at the convenience store told a detective Geary had told her three days before the shooting that Murat was verbally and physically threatening her and she feared he'd kill her.
Daniel Murat, another brother, told detectives Monday that Martine Murat had driven to Atlanta because of the shooting. Authorities there later found the car at an apartment complex.
Jail records show only one previous arrest for Murat, in 2005, for criminal mischief.
In court this morning, Vincent Murat told the judge his brother "had a promising career" as an electrician and was due to graduate in April with a journeyman's license.
"She's just a wonderful girl," aunt Vicki Conner said of Geary outside court. "I just want to go through the trial process now and hope he gets convicted."