Murder charge upgraded to death-penalty offense
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - A grand jury has upgraded the charges against Jonathan Ray Rodriquez and Kenneth Edward Felipe Jr. to first degree murder.
Published: October 13, 2012
Published: October 13, 2012
They had been charged with second degree murder, punishable by life in prison. Now, they could face the death penalty.
Rodriquez, 22, and Felipe, 19, are accused of beating to death Aaron Doty, 20, in a two-on-one fight during a Sunday morning party in June at the defendant's Sun N' Lake apartment, 5504 Granada Blvd.
Both are charged with first degree murder, kidnapping, and tampering with or fabricating evidence. The indictment said that Rodriguez and Felipe "did unlawfully from a premeditated design to effect the death of a human being, kill and murder Aaron Andrew Doty." Premeditation is an element of first-degree murder.
They were charged with mutilation of a corpse because they loaded Doty – while he was still alive – in a pickup truck and drove him to another remote Sun N' Lake location, doused him with gasoline and tried to burn the evidence of a murder.
County Judge Anthony Ritenour set $100,000 bonds for each man on those two additional charges, but the writ delivered to Sheriff Susan Benton on Thursday afternoon commands her to hold them without bond on all three charges.
The judge already made certain in June that Rodriguez and Felipe couldn't leave Highlands County before their murder trial. He did not allow bond on second-degree murder charges against the two. Even if another judge did set bail, the defendants would have to wear an ankle bracelet from the sheriff's office.
Thursday's indictments did not change their jail arrangements, Benton said. "They are already classified as maximum custody inmates."
The two accused murderers have been kept separately from each other, but they are not in solitary confinement, Benton said.
If Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin decides to seek the death penalty against Rodriguez, Assistant Public Defender Robert Gray may not continue to represent Rodriguez.
"I don't have any problem in representing someone accused of murder," Gray said, "but I will not represent someone who may receive the death penalty."
Therefore, Gray may ask Public Defender Marion Moorman to be removed from the case.
Because the public defender's office is representing Rodriquez, and their cases have been separated in court with each perhaps testifying against each other, Felipe's representation has been assigned to the local Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel.
State Attorney's spokesperson Chip Thullbery said the death penalty decision had not been made as of Friday afternoon, and that no further grand jury indictments are contemplated. However, he said that depends on what the future investigation turns up.
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