In a court hearing today, Assistant State Attorney Ken Lewis announced that he will not be seeking the death penalty against Hector Rodriguez, 31, and Jesse Davis, 30, the men charged with murdering two Winter Park, Fla., teenagers in April. The burning bodies of Jeremy Stewart, 18, and Nicholas Presha, 16, were discovered by cyclists near the Orlando-area Cady Way trail on April 15.
In what police are calling an “execution-style” killing, the two best friends were blindfolded and shot one at a time, in the back of the head. Stewart, the Orlando Sentinel reports, died from the first bullet. Presha was shot two additional times in the face. After they were shot, the teens’ bodies were soaked in gasoline and set on fire.
According to the 200 pages of evidence released by police in June, Stewart and Presha were no longer allowed to spend time together after getting caught driving a stolen car. The duo had a history of criminal mischief, including stealing items from unlocked vehicles. Within the weeks before they were killed, Stewart and Presha are alleged to have obtained two guns in this way. One of these guns, investigators say, was used to kill them.
The night of his death, Presha, whose father is a former Sheriff’s Deputy and currently works as an investigator for the Orange County State Attorney’s office, stuffed his bed and sneaked out. He met Stewart at a Race Trac gas station, where the two had a habit of hanging out and asking adults to buy them beer. This time, they asked Hector Rodriguez. It’s currently unknown whether Davis and Rodriguez knew Presha and Stewart before this. According to evidence pieced together using witness interviews and surveillance video, all four men went to Steak ‘n Shake to eat. During the meal, Rodriguez allegedly later told police, the teens brought up the stolen guns they had and offered them for sale. Davis and Stewart drove to Stewart’s home to get one of the guns, and all four reconvened at Davis’ house. There, Davis and Rodriguez asked to see Stewart’s Manurhin semi-automatic pistol, stolen from a car in February, and Presha’s .40 caliber Glock, stolen a week before the murders. As soon as they handed over the weapons, Davis and Rodriguez allegedly pointed them at the teens and ordered them to get down. When they refused, Davis fired into the air and pistol-whipped Stewart, causing his face to bleed. According to testimony by Davis’ girlfriend, who was woken up by the noise, the teens were laying naked, face-down on the floor, with their hands behind their backs. Investigators say Rodriguez and Davis then got Presha and Stewart into Davis’s vehicle and drove to a Citgo, where surveillance video taken at 5:48 a.m. shows Davis buying $5 in gas and looking nervously into his trunk. Within 20 minutes of that stop, the teens’ burning bodies were discovered by three bicyclists near Cady Way trail.
An additional 1,000 pages of discovery documents were released today, which detail how detectives questioned Davis’s girlfriend. According to the documents, she initially denied helping the suspects restrain the teens at Davis’s home, but later admitted to holding one of the guns while Davis went through the victims’ pockets.
Last month, the prosecutor in this case resigned. In 2009, Assistant State Attorney Josh Adams had agreed to give Jesse Davis three years probation instead of jail time for a road rage incident in which he beat a man with a stick for honking at him, despite Davis’ prior history of violence and mental instability. Adams signed off on the probation after one expert found Davis sane, and another found him insane. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Adams did not correctly complete a ‘score sheet’ used to determine a potential prison sentence based on prior crimes. The sheet, if done properly, would have recommended that Davis spend nearly four years in prison for the road rage incident.
On Monday, Davis, who according to Seminole County court records is a delusional schizophrenic, was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Danziger and psychologist Dr. Eric Mings, who evaluated Davis, told the court that Davis is not fit to stand trial and fits the criteria for involuntary hospitalization. Both Davis and Rodriguez remain jailed without bond. Rodriguez’s trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on November 5th. Davis’s right to a speedy trial was waived after his attorney filed the competency motion. His competency hearings are ongoing.