LITTLE ROCK -- Parnell May, the North Little Rock man who blamed a medical mishap for the December 2016 death of his 41-year-old girlfriend, was convicted of killing her after twice demonstrating for a Pulaski County jury how he "put the fire" out of her in a beating that included striking the woman repeatedly with an oak cane, acknowledging that each blow resulted in "vicious injury."
The jury's decision ended May's three-day trial with three hours of deliberations Friday night to find him guilty as charged of capital murder, a verdict that meant an automatic life sentence.
In closing arguments, deputy prosecutor Melissa Brown displayed enlarged autopsy photographs of Ann Marie Mireles' bruised, bloody and torn face along with the welts, cuts and scrapes that covered her body from head to waist. Brown told jurors the pictures showed everything they needed to know about how the woman was killed.
"Ann felt every blow the defendant gave her," Brown said. "He beat her over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. That took time. That took effort."
In his closing remarks, May, a fifth-grade dropout who insisted on representing himself, complained that he'd been prevented from showing jurors medical records that would prove his theory of how Mireles died.
"I'm guilty of being abusive but I'm not guilty of premeditated and deliberate," murder, May said. "I did not murder, kill or cause my girlfriend's death. I'm a good person who made some bad decisions. Medical science is on my side."
But he further told jurors that if they believed prosecutors had proved he caused Mireles' death, then they should find him guilty.
"If you can prove the causation factor, I'll take the capital murder," May told jurors.
An autopsy showed that Mireles died of multiple blunt force trauma, which doctors testified was the result of an extensive and prolonged beating that fractured most of her ribs, ripped her liver and inflicted more bruises, welts, scrapes and cuts than they could count from the top of her head to her waist.
Some of those injuries were inflicted by an "elongated object," which prosecutors said was a metal pipe and the wooden cane found in the couple's home, both marked with Mireles' blood. She was likely already dead when she was discovered lying on the steps in front of the couple's home shortly after 7 a.m. Dec. 4, 2016, making resuscitation efforts futile, according to testimony.
May refused to accept the conclusions from state medical examiners, telling jurors that his "medical math" showed Mireles died from blood loss caused by emergency medical efforts to resuscitate her. He said the chest compressions from cardiopulmonary resuscitation tore her liver and broke most of her ribs.
"No matter how brutally violent I was, I'm not trying to get away with murder. I'm trying to prove my innocence. I didn't cause her death," May told jurors when he took the stand in his own defense Friday.
May spent about an hour and 15 minutes Friday laying out his version of events for jurors. Acknowledging a 1991 Louisiana conviction for manslaughter at 15, which he described as self-defense, May said he's not aggressive but does fight back when he feels he's been wronged. He also told jurors, "I have a demon in me."
May said his relationship with Mireles was marked by excessive drinking and regular fist fights, but the couple always reconciled without Mireles ever reporting him to police. He told jurors that Mireles could box, knew how to defend herself and had a temper, sometimes mimicking what he said was her Puerto Rican accent.
May testified that the last time he saw Mireles alive was the night before her body was found. He said they had brawled in the living after she had started a fight with him, wrongly believing he had been watching pornography on their cell phone.
Both were drunk, and he had "gotten the better of her" during the struggle, beating her to her hands and knees to "put the fire out of her" and keep her from standing, he said. He told jurors he never beat Mireles with the pipe but did use the cane to strike her stomach repeatedly, acknowledging that he had caused most of the injuries doctors later found.
May said after the fight, the couple made up and resumed drinking. The last time he saw Mireles, she had walked outside to drink beer, May told jurors. May said he'd gone to sleep then he'd left the house the next morning about two hours after her body was found and was gone all day. He said he only learned that Mireles was dead when sheriff's deputies arrested him at the home shortly after he returned that night.
Senior deputy prosecutor Barbara Mariani spent only 15 minutes cross-examining May, asking him why he told jurors he'd last seen Mireles alive about 11 p.m. but had told sheriff's investigators when he was arrested the time had been 9 p.m.
"You lied about the times," Mariani accused.
"It's not a lie, it's a miscalculation of time," May responded, saying he had forgotten to take daylight saving time into account while being questioned.
It was a significant admission because a neighbor reported last seeing Mireles alive about 11 p.m., describing her lying on the couple's living room floor with May standing over her.
Further, prosecutors have photos of Mireles lying on her side on the floor that May said he had taken at 11:17 p.m. after their fight. The two photographs show Mireles' bruised abdomen but without the distinctive striped pattern welts on her stomach that she had when she was found. Those were the injuries that doctors said had been inflicted with an elongated object and ruptured her liver.
Mariani held the autopsy pictures inches from May's face as she asked him to admit inflicting Mireles' injuries. May admitted he had done most of the damage, calling each strike "a victorious injury." On his own, May swung his right arm up and down in a swatting motion to demonstrate how he had clubbed Mireles with the cane while she was on her hands and knees. He repeated the motions again when Mariani asked him too.
This was May's second trial. His first, in January 2018, was ended prematurely by the judge due to May's frequent outbursts that twice resulted in him having to be physically removed from the court.
May accepted the verdict calmly, but told the six men and six women of the jury that they had let their emotions override their logic to reach their verdict but that he could understand how that could happen.
"I understand my conduct was appalling," he said. "I want to let y'all know I'm not offended by what y'all done."
May told Circuit Judge Leon Johnson that he also would handle his own appeal without any legal assistance.