Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for George Shrader on Wednesday, thirty years after the body of the woman he was originally convicted of murdering was first discovered in southern Hillsborough county.
Shrader, who celebrated his fiftieth birthday almost one month ago in Hamilton Correctional Institution, was indicted in 2011 on charges that he sexually assaulted and murdered with premeditation Sharon Lorraine Moss, who was 23 at the time of her death. Moss’s body was discovered on the morning of Monday, January 27, 1986 in the middle of a dirt road in the Whiskey Stump Key area, clad in only a t-shirt. An autopsy revealed that she was stabbed three dozen times.
The case went cold until 2010, when Shrader’s DNA was entered into a national database after his arrest for domestic violence. It matched DNA recovered from Moss’s genitals, leading to a grand jury indicting him the next year. He was convicted of felony first-degree murder and two counts of sexual battery in 2013 and sentenced to a term of life in prison.
Upon appeal, Shrader’s attorneys argued that the state had not proven that he committed sexual battery upon Moss. As the jury did not find Shrader guilty of Moss’s murder, his murder conviction was based upon the felony murder rule, the common-law rule (that has since been codified in Florida’s statutory laws) making a defendant guilty of murder if he kills in the course of committing a dangerous or otherwise enumerated crime. His attorneys successfully argued that the evidence presented did not show that Moss had endured any sort of sexual trauma, leaving the door open to the possibility that she and Shrader had consensual sexual contact prior to her death, and that she may have been murdered by another party. The appeals court agreed, handing down a majority decision reversing the conviction of sexual battery, thus eliminating the felony murder conviction, and remanding the case for a new trial on the charges of second-degree murder.
Shrader already has one conviction of murder on his record – he was sentenced to twenty years in prison for killing his uncle in a bar fight on the day that Moss’s body was found. He ultimately served 4-1/2 years of that sentence. At the time of Moss’s murder, Shrader was free on bail.
Bjorn Brunvand has been defending individuals against murder charges in Florida for over two decades. If you have been charged with murder in Tampa or surrounding areas, contact us immediately.