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Teen murder suspect held without bond

BRADENTON — A judge this morning denied bond for one of two Palmetto High School students accused in a home invasion robbery that left a 55-year-old woman dead early Sunday morning.

Circuit Judge Marc Gilner ordered Marquis Sanders, 18, held without bond on a murder charge during a hearing at the Manatee courthouse.

Sanders and Ta Heem Blake, 17, are each charged with murder in the shooting death of Maria Lerna in her home in the 900 block of 25th Street East, Bradenton.

Both Blake and Sanders played football this past season for Palmetto High School. Sanders is a senior due to graduate this school year, while Blake, who reportedly is no longer on the team, is a junior.

Bradenton Police say just before 6 a.m. Sunday, Blake and Sanders stormed Lerna’s home armed with weapons in a robbery attempt. Police reports say Blake gunned Lerna down and shot another man in the house in the arm with a SKS rifle.

During the attack, a third victim in home armed with a gun opened fire on Blake, hitting and paralyzing him. He remains in a St. Petersburg hospital but has been served with a murder warrant, according to Bradenton Police Deputy Chief William Tokajer.

If released from the hospital, Blake would be taken to the Pinellas County jail, before being transferred to Manatee, Tokajer said.

Police say Sanders was armed with a pistol but did not fire his weapon, and fled when the shooting started.

His mother, Toy Sanders-Brown, pleaded with Gilner to set a bond so he could be released from jail.

“He is a loving person. Not a rowdy kid, not a street kid,” she said, crying.

Gilner told Sanders-Brown he sympathized with her but denied bond.

“My heart goes out to you. This is a tragedy for everyone involved. But you just don’t get more serious than this,” the judge said. “It is just a serious as it gets.”

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