A former Norland High assistant principal accused of beating a fellow educator to death faces execution after a grand jury on Wednesday indicted him for first-degree murder.
Ernest Joseph Roberts was first charged with second-degree murder for the death of of Kameela Russell, a popular teacher and test proctor at Norland High in North Miami-Dade. She disappeared on May 15 after failing to pick up her daughter at a relative’s home in Miami Gardens.
Her body was found days later in a canal near the home of Roberts, who had been friends with Russell since childhood and was even the godfather of her children.
Roberts remains jailed, and will appear Tuesday for arraignment on the upgraded charge. He is expected to plead not guilty.
“There shouldn’t be a rush to judgment. My client is being convicted in the court of public opinion, and they don’t know the facts of the case,” his defense attorney, Rod Vereen, said after an earlier court hearing. “Let justice run its course. My client is innocent until proven guilty.”
Miami-Dade prosecutors can waive the death penalty in the coming months if they choose.
Miami Gardens detectives say Russell’s blood was found on an Amazon box inside his bedroom, which had been thoroughly cleaned with bleach. He is seen on the surveillance video putting something — believed to be her body — in her trunk, then driving her car away, according to the arrest warrant.
Investigators also believe he tried enlisting the help of a school janitor to get rid of her car, even penning him a note and leaving it for him hidden inside a cabinet at Linda Lentin K-8 Center in North Miami, where he’d been most recently working.
“Do you know anyone that can chop up a car? If so or make it ‘disappear’ take these keys,” Roberts’ note read, according to the warrant. “Its behind the speedway racetrack on 441 by County line. Friends are gone and need it to disappear. If not leave it + I’ll work it out later. THROW THIS NOTE AWAY!”