A jury found two men guilty of murder on Wednesday in connection to the 2019 killing of 26-year-old Christopher Rashad Ramos.
Co-defendants Davion Lee, 20, and Sean Thomas, 24, were convicted of murder in the first degree, armed burglary of a dwelling, and robbery with a firearm.
A sentencing date for Thomas and Lee has not yet been determined.
Assistant Public Defender Marc Gilman, who represented Lee, declined to comment. Attorney Jonathan Hackworth, who represented Thomas, could not be reached for comment Thursday as he was in trial for another case.
Assistant State Attorney William Greiner has yet to return calls for comment.
During the trial, jurors heard from detectives, Charron Xavier Demarquis Martin, a third suspect arrested in connection to the murder, and watched a 30-minute interrogation video of Thomas which showed him getting flustered as detectives kept pushing about his whereabouts the morning of March 8, 2019.
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That morning before 9 a.m., Sarasota County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a shooting in the 2100 block of Banneker Way, where they found Ramos dead inside a home.
A probable cause affidavit indicates deputies found Ramos in the front bedroom of the home with multiple gunshot wounds. There were no signs of forced entry and four shell casings found at the scene were determined to have been from the same gun.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in his case, Martin fled to Philadelphia hours after the murder.
He was arrested in connection to the shooting in December 2019 after he returned to the state in late October and was interviewed by detectives. Martin denied any involvement in the case.
However, when Martin took to the stand Monday during Lee and Thomas’ trial, he changed his story.
As the defense tried to impeach Martin during his testimony, he admitted to lying to police previously but said he’d had a change of heart after praying about it in jail and decided to tell the truth.
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Prior to his testimony, members of the victim’s family left the courtroom before he began to describe the robbery gone wrong.
According to an affidavit, Martin did reach out to a witness in the case after being interviewed by investigators, who notified police that Martin said the shooting was supposed to be a robbery and that he didn’t know Ramos lived in the home.
Martin explained to the witness that when he, Lee and Thomas entered the home after the witness and her children had left, they were surprised to find Ramos asleep in the “middle bedroom with bunk beds.” Martin said that it was Thomas who told Ramos to get up. Ramos then appeared to recognize Thomas despite him wearing a mask.
The affidavit indicates that when Martin realized who it was, he told Thomas and Lee that he was leaving. As he walked out, he heard four gunshots.
The details Martin gave the witness were consistent with what he told another witness, according to the affidavit. Additionally, some of the details he provided weren’t released to the public and the only way he could have known is if he had been there.
Martin was charged with murder with a firearm, however, according to court records his current charge is for second-degree homicide wilful kill-murder not premeditated.
During the seven-month-long investigation, detectives executed more than 20 search warrants for cell phone and social media data, according to an affidavit. The digital evidence recovered revealed that just hours before the shooting, all three suspects spoke to each other in a group chat through social media.
In addition, evidence retrieved from Thomas’ phone showed that Thomas and Lee were passengers in a vehicle parked across from Ramos’ residence, indicating a third suspect was the driver.
Previous reporting by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune indicated that detectives accessed health data and GPS coordinates from an iPhone XR seized during the arrest of one of the suspect’s on an unrelated charge on March 12 which contradicted their alibis.
Gabriela Szymanowska covers the legal system for the Herald-Tribune in partnership with Report for America. You can support her work with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America. Contact Gabriela Szymanowska at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter.