The state will no longer be seeking the death penalty in the case against the last of three defendants still facing charges for the fatal shootings of a Bradenton couple during an armed home invasion.
Jimmie McNear, 20, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed home invasion. Now, if convicted of first-degree murder, McNear will be automatically sentenced to life in prison since the state is no longer seeking death.
Just before 4 a.m. on July 9, 2015, Bradenton police were called to the home of Kantral Brooks and his girlfriend, Esther Deneus, in the 3900 block of Southern Parkway in Bradenton after the break-in triggered their home’s security system. Officers arrived to find the couple’s five children, ages 1 to 11 at the time, standing together in the living room where both their parents had been shot.
The children, who officers say appeared terrified when they arrived, had to be helped over Brooks’ body to exit the home while other officers attempted to aide Deneus.
McNear, Trey Nonnombre and Terez Jones were each identified by detectives as suspects in the case and were later indicted on identical charges.
However, Jones, 35, took a plea deal in May and pleaded guilty to the two counts of second-degree murder and one count of armed burglary and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in exchange for testifying against his co-defendants. On Sept. 28, a jury of 12 found Nonnombre guilty as charged on all counts.
“Based on the jury’s responses to some of the questions concerning Mr. Nonnombre’s case, it is clear that they had some uncertainty as to his direct responsibility for the deaths of Kantral Brooks and Ester Deneus, which was fundamental to the state’s pursuit of the death penalty against him as the most culpable of the three co-defendants charged in the case,” Assistant State Attorney Art Brown said in a statement to the Herald echoing his words in court.
Days after a jury found Nonnombre guilty, Brown also announced that the state was no longer seeking the death penalty against him. In their verdict, the jury found that Nonnombre had discharged a firearm that did not result in Brooks’ death and carried but did not discharge it in Deneus’ death.
“Accordingly, the state decided to no longer pursue the death penalty against Mr. Nonnombre, secure in the knowledge that he could no longer harm our citizens,” Brown said. “Given that determination, the state can no longer seek the death penalty against McNear based on case law that states that a less culpable defendant may not receive the death penalty when a more culpable co-defendant receives a life sentence.”
Last month, Jones detailed for a jury how they planned the burglary. He also explained how he first shot at Brooks, then McNear fired at him and lastly Nonnombre. Jones also said he was walking out of the home, followed by McNear, when Nonnombre raised his gun and fired at Deneus after she pleaded, “Don’t kill me in front of my children.”
Following the state’s announcement, Circuit Judge Diana Moreland ruled that a motion seeking to preclude the death penalty from being sought by McNear’s defense based on intellectual disability was moot. Moreland also briefly heard arguments about limiting statements at trial from Jones and another witness, Xavier Walker.
Regarding Jones’ statements, Moreland denied the motion finding, “that it is probative, and while it is prejudice, it is not substantially more prejudicial than it is probative in this case.” Moreland reserved her ruling on Walker’s statements so that she can review transcripts.
McNear is expected to stand trial beginning Nov. 1. Moreland announced that the trial would begin but have recess on Nov. 3 when she would be out and resume Nov. 6.