A Manatee County jury on Thursday found Trey Nonnombre guilty as charged on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed home invasion in the 2015 fatal shootings of Kantral Brooks and his girlfriend Esther Deneus in Bradenton.
Nonnombre, 20, now faces the death penalty. The penalty phase of the trial begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 11.
Brooks and Deneus were shot dead just before 4 a.m. July 9, 2015, in the home they shared in the 3900 block of Southern Parkway in Bradenton. The break-in triggered the home’s security alarm system, and when Bradenton police officers arrived moments later, they found the couple had been shot.
The couple’s five frightened children — who had been in the living room when their parents were shot — were standing together when officers arrived.
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As the verdicts were read, loved ones of the victims could be heard mumbling “thank God” amongst themselves.
Nonnombre was serious and showed no emotion as he learned his fate. Some of his loved ones, however, ran out of the courtroom and erupted in screams and cried loudly in the hallways. Members of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office followed and watched until they entered an elevator and departed.
Back inside the courtroom, jurors were told by Circuit Judge Diana Moreland that the penalty phase of the trial could not begin immediately, and they were asked if they could return Oct. 11 and 12. After being given a brief recess to make any calls necessary, none of the jurors indicated any conflicts with the dates. Both alternate jurors also indicated no conflicts and were ordered to return.
The victims’ loved ones declined to comment outside the courthouse afterward, other than to smile and say “justice was served.”
“With this verdict, Nonnombre will no longer plague the city of Bradenton,” James Curulla, a Bradenton Police Department homicide detective, told the Herald.
Nonnombre is next scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Monday for a status conference hearing. Based on the jury’s verdict form in which they found Nonnombre had carried a firearm but did not discharge it, the defense is hoping the state will decide not to still seek the death penalty, according to defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand.
Under Florida’s new death penalty laws, the jury has to find at least one aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt that outweighs any established mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances have to be established by the greater weight of the evidence.
The verdicts came after nearly 16 hours of deliberations by the jury of 12, made up of six women and six men. There were some doubts on Thursday afternoon as to whether a verdict would be reached based on the jury’s questions.
“What are the consequences if we are unable to unanimously decide on the level of aggravator by carrying a firearm, even if we are unanimous on every other part of the indictment?” the jury’s note before 3 p.m. read by Moreland said.
The follow-up question read, “Is the aggravation a mistrial of the count?”
Attorneys from both sides had disagreed on how to proceed, but Moreland ultimately responded by telling them “any decision concerning an aggravator must be unanimous if any apply,” and the judge ordered them to continue their deliberations.
The last question from the jury, just before it reached a verdict, raised eyebrows in the courtroom.
“Are the jurors part of the sentencing process,” Moreland read as many in the courtroom expressed disbelief.
The jury members were sequestered Wednesday night after deliberating for more than six hours and sending a note to the judge saying they were unable to reach a decision that night.
Deliberations resumed shortly after 8:30 a.m. Thursday, and the verdict was reached about 6 p.m.
Moreland answered three questions from the jury before noon Thursday. One of the questions resulted in a new verdict form to assist with deliberations. Moreland said the old verdict form would be sealed in court records.
Three armed suspects, captured by the home’s video surveillance system, were later identified to detectives as Nonnombre, Jimmie McNear, 20, and Terez Jones, 35. Each was indicted on identical charges.
Jones avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and armed burglary. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison with the condition that he testify truthfully against Nonnombre and McNear.
McNear is scheduled to stand trial during the five-week trial period that begins Oct. 16.
Nonnombre’s trial got underway Sept. 18.
Testimony began Monday and included the testimony of Deneus’ 13-year-old son, who recounted for the jury how he and his siblings were in the room when his mother and stepfather were shot dead.
“Don’t kill me in front of my children,” the boy testified were his mother’s last words.
On Tuesday, Jones testified that he was headed out the front door with McNear behind him when he saw Nonnombre point his gun at Deneus. Later in the car, Jones said he asked Nonnombre whether he had shot “the girl,” and he admitted to doing so.
But the defense questioned his motivations for testifying against Nonnombre.
Nonnombre exercised his constitutional right not to testify on Wednesday and to not call any witnesses or introduce evidence of his own.
Sara Nealeigh, Herald staff writer, contributed to this report.