AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A 22-year-old man could face the death penalty after a jury convicted him of aggravated murder in the slayings of four people in a northeast Ohio townhome last year.
The jury in Akron found Derrick Brantley guilty on Wednesday of charges including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. The same panel returns Monday to hear more evidence and recommend life in prison or execution.
Prosecutors said the April 18, 2013, slayings at an Akron townhome had their roots in the state's growing heroin epidemic. All four victims — Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Rashad Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19; and Kiana Welch, 19 — were shot in the head at close range during what prosecutors say was a drug-related robbery.
While no eyewitnesses testified and no DNA connected Brantley to the shootings, prosecutors connected him to shootings and robbery with circumstantial evidence such as text messages sent from Brantley's cellphone to Haywood's phone. Defense attorneys contended that someone else was using Brantley's phone.
The Akron Beacon Journal (http://bit.ly/1lpsj6d ) reported that the victims' families hugged and cried after the verdicts. Brantley showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but his mother shouted loudly and rushed out of the heavily guarded courtroom. Several others followed a short time later.
"I turned this situation to God," said Delaney's father, also named Kem. "He showed up and showed out today."
None of the victims' family members would give an opinion on whether Brantley deserves the death penalty.
Brantley's co-defendant, 22-year-old Deshanon Haywood, has pleaded not guilty and is set for trial July 2.