Verdict: Orange City Man Found Not Guilty in Fatal Shooting of Deltona Teen

Orange City, Florida – An Orange City man charged with fatally shooting a 16-year-old high school student, Xyrus Zelaya, and injuring another, Jacob Hope, has been acquitted by a jury following his claim of self-defense. Markland Roberts, 46, faced charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter with a firearm, which could have resulted in a 45-year prison sentence if he had been convicted.

The jury, consisting of six members, deliberated for nearly two hours before delivering the verdict. When the verdict was read, Roberts appeared emotional, with his defense attorney placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. On the other side of the courtroom, Zelaya’s family and friends sat in stunned silence as the decision was announced.

The incident occurred on October 30, 2021, during a Halloween party at a residence in Deltona. Zelaya and his friends were invited by girls attending the party but were denied entry upon arrival. An altercation ensued, leading to Roberts firing a shot at the car carrying the youths, fatally striking Zelaya and injuring Hope.

Roberts testified during the trial, claiming that he acted in self-defense after feeling threatened by the youths in the car. Despite arguments from the prosecution, Roberts maintained that he believed he was in danger of a drive-by shooting and acted accordingly. The defense attempted to have the charges dismissed under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, but the motion was denied by the presiding judge.

During his testimony, Roberts detailed the events leading up to the shooting, emphasizing his fear for his life at the time of the incident. He described the moment he fired his weapon and the subsequent shock he experienced upon learning about the casualties the following day.

Throughout the trial, both sides presented their arguments, with the prosecution questioning Roberts’ actions and decision to shoot into a car full of individuals. Despite the acquittal, the case shed light on the complexities of self-defense laws and the use of firearms in perceived threatening situations.

In the aftermath of the trial, emotions ran high as supporters of both Roberts and Zelaya’s family reacted to the verdict. The case serves as a stark reminder of the tragic consequences that can arise from encounters involving firearms and contested claims of self-defense.