If you witness a crime, here’s what to do
A Bradenton man will spend the rest of his life in prison for kidnapping a woman in the early-morning hours of Aug. 9, 2018, taking her to the dark wooded area known as the “Dead End” in East Bradenton at gunpoint, shooting her and leaving her for dead.
Several witnesses heard the gunshots and called 911. The victim was found alive by Bradenton police officers laying in the middle of the 2900 block of 11th Avenue East.
Andre “Joe” Romilus, 26, and his girlfriend Lakesha Lashawn “Kesha Dawes” Rapolla, 40, claimed that the victim owed them money when she went to buy drugs from Rapolla, according to the Bradenton Police investigation.
Last week, a jury found Romilus guilty of armed kidnapping and aggravated assault for his role in the attack. Romilus had been charged with attempted murder but the jury found him guilty of lesser charges of aggravated assault.
At the conclusion of the four-day trial, Circuit Judge Lon Arend sentenced Romilus to life in prison.
“We appreciate the jury’s dedication and careful deliberations in this case,” assistant state attorneys Courtney Hollen and Tyler Egbert said in an issued statement. “We are deeply inspired by the victim’s courage to testify and confront the person that so senselessly tried to take her life.”
Romilus faced anywhere from a minimum mandatory 10 years in prison to life, but because he was designated by the court as being a prison releasee reoffender, he received the maximum punishment.
Romilus had been released from prison in June 2016 after serving time for grand theft. Anyone who commits certain felonies within three years of being released from prison can be designated a prison releasee reoffender, enhancing the punishment automatically to the maximum sentence.
The victim was shot in her neck, abdomen and leg but survived after undergoing extensive surgery. She testified at trial against Romilus, who was armed with an automatic rifle.
His girlfriend, Rapolla , was armed with a handgun and also shot at her, according to the victim. She is also charged with attempted murder and armed kidnapping, and had been scheduled to stand trial this month but it was canceled. She is next scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday for a case management hearing.
Romilus’ case was first heard by a jury in June, but it was declared a mistrial after the jury reached a deadlock.