SEBRING In return for their testimonies, Nicole Hebert pleaded nolo contendre Monday for her part in the murder of Aaron Doty, and Adrianna Rodriguez pleaded guilty.
Hebert, who has been in Highlands County Jail since she was arrested in August, was returned to custody to serve the remainder of a 364-day sentence. Circuit Court Judge Angela Cowden also sentenced the woman to nine years probation, which could be terminated after six years.
Hebert will be credited with time served, and will not go to state prison if she honors the agreement.
Rodriguez, who bonded out, walked out with her family after she was sentenced to five years probation. The proceedings for both women took less than 30 minutes.
“They did very different things,” Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin said, while explaining the differences in their sentences.
Hebert drove her boyfriend, Kenneth Felipe, 19, and his friend, Jonathan Ray Rodriguez, 21, to Orlando after they killed Aaron Doty, 20. She was charged with accessory after a first-degree murder, a felony with a possible 15-year sentence.
“The other cleaned up a mess on the floor,” Houchin said. Nevertheless, tampering with evidence is a third-degree felony.
On June 9, 2012, the state alleged, Felipe, 19, and Rodriquez, 22, both of 5504 Granada Blvd., picked a fight with Doty. After beating him into unconsciousness, they dragged his body outside. Hours later, they took what they believed was his dead body to a nearby woods and set him on fire.
However, a medical examiner later determined Doty was still alive. He was found dead west of Sun 'n Lake.
Jonathan Rodriguez and Felipe are scheduled to reappear at 8:30 a.m. April 18. Both remain in Highlands County Jail on charges of first-degree murder, abuse of a body and tampering with physical evidence. Rodriguez is represented by Assistant Public Defender Robert H. Gray. Felipe is represented by Shirley Whitsitt and Byron P. Hileman.
Hebert and Adriana Rodriguez were a study in contrasts: Hebert was in handcuffs and an orange jail jumpsuit, her curly hair cropped short. Rodriguez was stylishly dressed in a gray blouse and black slacks, her long black hair highlighted.
Hebert and Rodriguez “must cooperate with all law enforcement and testify truthfully at any and all proceedings in any way connected with the Doty homicide,” their plea agreements said.
Hebert agreed to 200 hours of community service; Rodriguez must perform 250 hours during her probation. Both agreed to warrantless searches and seizures, to give DNA samples, to abstain from drinking and drugging.
The Rodriguez deal was signed Thursday; Hebert on Friday. If they violate their plea deals, Assistant State Attorney Pete Barone, promised to file an affidavit and have them back in court.
Hebert’s attorney, Robin Stevenson of Bartow, said his client got a good deal because she will serve a lesser sentence than demanded by the state sentencing guidelines.
Two more of the six Doty defendants were in court last week. However, Cowden decided prosecutors and defense attorneys were not ready for trial and rescheduled Travis William Makris and Giovanni Burgos for another pretrial conference at 8:30 a.m. April 17. Both Makris and Burgos have bonded out of Highlands County Jail.
Det. Barbara Hair's affidavit asserted that Felipe and Rodriguez needed a place to hide, so they contacted Felipe's cousin, Burgos, who offered his Orlando apartment. U.S. marshals traced Felipe and Rodriguez.
Makris agreed to keep a bag of clothes and a pair of sneakers for the accused murderers. He was charged with accessory after the fact. He is represented by William Fletcher.