Jury deliberations began Tuesday afternoon in the case of an Akron man accused of killing four people inside a Chapel Hill-area townhouse last year.
Derrick A. Brantley, 22, could receive the death penalty if he is convicted in the April 18, 2013, slayings that took place inside the Kimlyn Circle residence.
Co-defendant Deshanon Haywood, 22, is set for trial July 2.
The men are accused in the shooting death of Ronald Roberts, 24; Kem Rashad Delaney, 23; Maria Nash, 19; and Kiana Welch, 19. All four were found with multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
Jurors in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands are expected to be sequestered until they reach their verdicts. They met for several hours Tuesday without reaching a decision.
Summit County prosecutors told jurors in closing arguments Tuesday morning that cellphone records and a witness place Brantley at the scene of the mass killing. The motive was to rob Roberts and Delaney of cash and heroin.
The two women, prosecutors said, became victims of a “death trap” when they showed up before the killers were able to leave. The killings took place about 2 a.m. The bodies were found about 13 hours later.
“Kiana Welch and Maria Nash had no idea what they were walking into,” Assistant Prosecutor Aaron Howell told jurors during closing arguments. “They were marched downstairs, and they were executed.”
Howell also reminded jurors of text messages sent from a phone belonging to Brantley in which someone wrote: “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].”
Deonte “Big” Woods, a longtime friend of Brantley, testified that on the day of the killings, the defendants had him 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.
Woods said one of the men threatened him, saying: “We’re going to take this to our graves.”
Defense attorney Nathan Ray urged jurors to disregard Woods’ testimony in light of the fact he lied repeatedly to Akron police detectives shortly after the slaying. He said Woods changed his story only when threatened with arrest.
Further, Ray told jurors that no evidence shows Brantley sent the text messages — termed a confession by prosecutors. Ray said “someone else” had one of two phones linked to Brantley.
Finally, he said, no DNA ties Brantley to the slaying, but rather some DNA recovered — from Delaney’s pants pockets, a cabinet and a .40-caliber bullet — point to an unknown source.
“Is that important? You bet,” Ray told jurors. “Because the physical, tangible evidence we have in this case — the DNA — excludes Derrick Brantley.”
Prosecutors say the absence of DNA does not exclude Brantley as a suspect. They pointed to the absence of DNA from Nash to support the assertion.
Brantley and Haywood each are charged with 13 counts of aggravated murder, four counts of aggravated robbery and kidnapping, aggravated burglary and illegal weapon possession.