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A murder trial is set to begin this week for one of two suspects accused of killing their two roommates and burning their bodies on the side of the road in 2017.
Julian Cathirell, 26, stands accused of shooting twin brothers Brandon and Brian Allen, both 21, according to the Sun-Sentinel. He is one of two suspects believed to be involved in the brothers’ murders and the failed cover-up that followed. Darin Byrd, 24, also shared an apartment with the Allen twins in West Palm Beach.
Deputies were called to a brush fire in a rural area about 20 feet from Beeline Highway in Palm Beach Gardens, according to the Sentinel. When responders arrived, they found two burning bodies wrapped in bedding and plastic.
Cathirell and Byrd had allegedly been on the outs with the brothers for some time. On March 14, 2017, the suspects held a household meeting for “a discussion on household items,” according to sheriff’s office records obtained by The Palm Beach Post. An unnamed witness who was there that night stated Cathirell pulled out a gun and shot both brothers.
Cathirell shot Brian in the stomach with a .45-caliber handgun before shooting Brandon in the arm, according to the witness’s statement cited by The Sentinel. As Brandon raced for the front door, Byrd stood in his way and prevented him from leaving.
The witness told investigators that Byrd pushed Brandon down to the ground while saying, “get down there,” reported the Post. Sheriff records state that Cathirell and Byrd kept the twins’ bodies in a bathtub for nearly 24 hours before driving them to the side of the road, where the victims were burnt beyond recognition.
The suspects were arrested that evening and charged with first-degree murder.
As Cathirell’s trial begins, his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Pribble, says his client had good reason to kill the brothers, according to The Sentinel.
“Based on the aggression, threats, and hostility by the Allen brothers toward Mr. Cathirell in the weeks leading up [to] them being shot – as well as their very vocal efforts to obtain a firearm to harm Mr. Cathirell during that time period – it appears that a prominent issue for the jury to resolve in the trial may be whether or not Mr. Cathirell was justified in using deadly force to defend against a perceived threat to his life.”
Prosecutors said they believe the evidence against Cathirell and Byrd is overwhelming.
The two suspects attempted to clear away evidence by cleaning the apartment with bleach and alcohol, according to the Sentinel. Authorities also found photos on Cathirell’s phone showing a pool of blood, which would later match the brothers’ DNA.
The first 911 calls about the brushfire came only minutes after the bodies were set on fire.
Assistant State Attorney Lauren Godden gave notice that the state is not seeking the death penalty for either suspect. Cathirell's trial is expected to begin this week. A trial date for Byrd has yet to be scheduled.
According to Brian Allen and Brandon Allen’s obituaries, the brothers worked as cooks at a Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant. In a press conference, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office indicated the young men had no family.
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