A 13-year-old boy recalled for a jury how he tried to hide under the covers while his stepfather and mother were shot dead.
“Don’t kill me in front of my children,” the boy recalled his mother, Ester Deneus, saying.
The boy, who was 11 years old on July 9, 2015, was asleep on the couch with his four siblings when a brick crashed through the glass of his front door. Three black men, he said, armed with pistols then came inside.
Trey Nonnombre, who is charged with being one of those men, is on trial for two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed home invasion. If convicted, the state will seek the death penalty.
Deneus’ son remained calm as he detailed the last moments of his mother and stepfather’s lives during the first day of testimony in Nonnombre’s trial.
The break-in happened just before 4 a.m. and set off the security alarm in the home the family shared in the 3900 block of Southern Parkway in Bradenton. The eldest boy described how one of the men pointed a gun at his stepfather, Kantral Brooks, held him by the shoulder and demanded that he turn the alarm off.
“I just hid under the covers,” the boy said Monday afternoon. “They asked for money.”
He heard four or five gunshots after that — the shots that would kill his stepfather.
It was then that his mother came out of the master bedroom and stood by the couch. She had been holding his youngest brother who was about 1-year-old at the time, but put him down before getting shot dead.
After a weeklong jury selection process last week, the trial got underway Monday morning with opening statements and the state beginning to present its case.
Jurors held in their hands bags containing the bullets that killed Brooks and Deneus, after hearing the testimony of one of several crime scene technicians.
Cameron Wortham later detailed for the jury how he had been at the home of Xavier Walker where Reggie Holmes, Nonnombre, Jimmie McNear and Terez Jones planned a burglary, and Brooks was suggested as the target.
Wortham said he drove past Brooks’ home and waited around the corner as Jones drove a second car with Holmes, Nonnombre and McNear that hung back near Brooks’ home for about five minutes. After Jones drove over to where Wortham was, they all went to a Circle K and then back to Walker’s house, he testified.
When they all left again, Jones took the lead driving with Holmes, Nonnombre and McNear in the car, Wortham said.
But Wortham remembered a sheriff’s deputy turning in front of Jones, and said, “I saw it as a sign, don’t do this.” So he turned off and went to his grandmother’s house, where he sat for a few minutes before going to a 7-Eleven and then home.
Wortham had taken out the battery of his cell phone, he told Assistant State Attorney Art Brown, to prevent the others from being able to call him.
But during cross-examination, defense attorney Daniel Hernandez pointed out that he had no way to account for his time other than the few minutes he was inside the 7-Eleven. Hernandez asked if Wortham had in fact been part of the conspiracy to burglarize Brooks.
Wortham disagreed, saying Holmes had asked him to be their lookout, but he said no. But that then Jones had asked him to follow them to the house because they had all the guns in the car, he added.
But wasn’t Wortham still hiding from police after that, Hernandez questioned.
“I had a warrant (for violation of probation),” Wortham said.
Hernandez asked about him getting a good deal since he was never charged in this case. Wortham said he didn’t call it a good deal. But Hernandez pressed saying he ended up back on probation after getting arrested for the violation of probation warrant and pleading guilty.
“Yeah, after serving nine months,” Wortham said.
Wortham was also questioned about not immediately going to police after seeing a Facebook post about the murders. He said he met with Holmes and Walker first to try and found out what happened.
Jones and McNear were both charged with identical charges as Nonnombre. In May, however, Jones took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and armed burglary. Jones will have to testify this week against Nonnombre and later at McNear’s trial as part of the plea deal. McNear is scheduled to stand trial during a five-week trial period that begins Oct. 16.