SEBRING Unlike two other defendants in the murder case of Aaron Doty, Jonathan Rodriguez and Kenneth Felipe didn’t plea bargain with the prosecutors on Thursday. Pretrial conferences for both accused killers were continued to June 20.
“Nothing is going to take place in the foreseeable future with them,” Assistant State Attorney Steve Houchin said. “I have no doubt they are going to trial.”
Assistant State Attorney Pete Barone said on Wednesday, and Houchin reiterated on Thursday, that a plea deal might be accepted in the near future from Travis Makris, who is accused of holding a bag of clothing and tennis shoes from Rodriguez or Felipe.
Barone said Makris is cooperating in the murder investigation; Giovanni Burgos is not.
Felipe’s girlfriend Nicole Hebert was accused of driving him and Rodriguez to Burgos’ Orlando apartment. Last month she accepted a 10-year jail and probation sentence. So has Adrianna Rodriguez (no relation to Jonathan), who was accused of cleaning up blood evidence at the apartment where Doty was nearly beaten to death.
“One or two others (Makris and Burgos) might also, depending on how cooperative they have been and will be in the future,” Houchin said.
Despite a Facebook site calling for the arrest of a teenage boy who was at the party is unlikely to be charged, Houchin said.
“There was no charge because so far there is not sufficient evidence that he took part in active wrongdoing,” Houchin said. “Being an observer and not preventing something doesn’t get you charged in this state, and we and the Highlands County sheriff’s investigators looked at him very, very closely.”
Although prosecuting six defendants in the Doty case seems complicated, Houchin said it isn’t much more complex than the murders of Nick Sottile or baby Kaedyn Short.
If he needs help, Houchin can call on State Attorney Jerry Hill or other prosecutors from Bartow. “But I don’t think it will be necessary.”
Houchin said he still isn’t prepared to talk about whether he will seek the death penalty for Rodriguez and Felipe. When the medical examiner determined that Aaron Doty was still alive when his body was burned, Houchin asked a grand jury to upgrade the charge from second-degree to first-degree murder. However, that didn’t make it an automatic death penalty case.
“It doesn’t mean that at all,” Houchin said. “The majority of cases don’t qualify for the death penalty.”