An Akron man is now closer to receiving a death sentence after a jury late Wednesday afternoon convicted him in the execution-style slayings of four friends.
Derrick Brantley, 22, stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as a Summit County judge spent just over 40 minutes reading guilty verdicts for 22 criminal counts and other specifications and polling jurors about the convictions.
The same jury will return Monday to hear testimony in the trial’s sentencing phase.
Brantley faces a sentence ranging from life in prison to death. Jurors will make a recommendation to Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands, who will then hand down a sentence.
Jurors found Brantley guilty of multiple counts of aggravated murder for fatally shooting Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Rashad Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19; and Kiana Welch, 19.
All four were found April 18, 2013, inside a Kimlyn Circle townhouse. Each suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
The trial and verdicts brought bouts of emotion from families of the victims and defendant. As the first verdicts were being read, a woman — believed to be Brantley’s mother — shouted loudly and rushed out of the heavily guarded courtroom. Several others followed a short time later.
After the hearing, the families of three victims hugged, cried and consoled each other. None would give their thoughts on a possible sentence.
“I just thought it was great. I’m real happy with the verdict,” said April Roberts-Gilbert, the mother of Ronald Roberts. “I’m just glad this part is over.”
Kem Delaney, the father of Kem Rashad Delaney, thanked the justice system and his faith for the verdicts.
“I turned this situation to God. He showed up and showed out today,” he said, adding that he would leave it up to the judicial system to decide Brantley’s fate. “I don’t have an opinion on whether a death sentence or whether life and parole.”
Regina Cheatham, the aunt of Maria Nash, said Wednesday would have been the woman’s 21st birthday.
“God worked it out. For all of us, not just Maria,” Cheatham said. “We’re bonded by love and family now. We’re all one now.”
Assistant prosecutors Aaron Howell and Brian LoPrinzi told jurors that robbery was the motive behind the shootings. Brantley was also convicted of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and kidnapping. He did not testify.
Prosecutors said Brantley and a co-defendant targeted the residence in the early morning hours to rob Delaney and Roberts of heroin and cash.
The women arrived at the townhouse before the suspects left, and entered what prosecutors termed a “death trap.” Like Roberts and Delaney, the women were ordered to the basement and shot execution style.
Co-defendant Deshanon Haywood, 22, is set for trial next month.
While no eyewitnesses to the slayings testified and no DNA connected Brantley to the shootings, prosecutors relied on circumstantial evidence highlighted by text messages sent from Brantley’s cellphone to Haywood’s phone to connect him to the mass shooting and robbery.
The messages said: “I’m about to shoot” Roberts, and “I’m going to kill both des [N-words].” The message urged the other person, believed to be Haywood, to “get the [drugs].”
In addition, a longtime friend to Brantley testified that on the night of the killings, the defendants instructed him to park his SUV near Kimlyn Circle and wait for them. After several hours, he said, Haywood and Brantley finally came rushing back, carrying a rolled up T-shirt and heroin.
Defense attorneys Nathan Ray and John Greven contended the friend was pressured by police to lie. They also said “someone else” had Brantley’s phone.