Jonathan Bennett found guilty in 2017 murder case

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. — The jury trial for a 2017 murder case is now over as Jonathan Bennett was found guilty of first-degree murder.

He was previously accused of shooting and killing Cody Darby in their shared home.

After only about an hour and a half in deliberations, the jury brought back the guilty verdict.

On day two of the trial, the state called three witnesses to the stand, including the mother and grandmother of the defendant Bennett.

The third witness was Chief Medical Examiner for the 14th Judicial Circuit, Dr. Jay Radtke.

Radtke was asked to talk through many autopsy pictures, showing the gunshot wound and explaining how it caused Darby’s death.

According to the police report from May 29, 2017, Bennett took the gun used in the shooting from his grandmother’s home.

His grandmother says Bennett seemed perfectly normal on that day over two years ago but she didn’t see him leave her home.

Bennett’s mother Brenda Sharit says the two men were living in a home she owned but neither was paying rent as she asked.

She says she was telling both of the men to move out of the home on the day of the incident. On the stand Wednesday morning, Sharit stated her son called her just minutes after the shooting took place.

Sharit said, “He was crying and said ‘Mom, I’m scared.’ I said ‘why are you scared? Did you wreck your truck or something?’ He said ‘I don’t know why I’m at your house. I don’t know how I got to your house but I’m here and Cody’s dead and I’m scared.”

During Dr. Radtke’s testimony, he says from his findings, the gun was only about two feet from the victim when it was fired.

He also said the wound caused Darby’s death in maybe just a matter of seconds.

During closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Bob Sombathy and Defense Attorney Rusty Shepard addressed the jury.

The state arguing for a first-degree murder conviction while the defense argued Bennett was acting in self-defense due to past altercations and fear.

Shepard said, “the state has made the comment, Mr. Bennett was on a mission. He was hardly on a mission. He went over to his grandmother’s house and got something to eat, laughing and joking about his silly haircut.”

“So he got the shotgun, which was not his, and he loaded it in the room, took it in his truck and at that moment, he knew exactly what he was going to do,” said Sombathy. 

Both sides agreed a shot was fired by Bennett but the reason behind it is what’s in question.

Shepard says the shooting happened because Bennett was scared but Sombathy says the actions of Bennett shows he knew what he wanted to do.

“He was looking down the barrel of this gun when he pulled that hammer back, there was no way he was going to miss,” said Sombathy. 

Back in 2017, Bennett was arrested just minutes after the shooting happened and was actually sitting at the home when law enforcement arrived. 

“If he’s guilty and he knows it, why isn’t he running? Why? He’s sitting there. They (law enforcement) go up to him, they say what happened? He says I shot my friend,” said Shepard.

“If he was so scared, why were the first words out of his mouth, ‘that mf’er won’t disrespect me again’? Mission accomplished,” said Sombathy. 

Bennett was found guilty of first-degree murder by the jury

The jury could have also found Bennett guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter, or they could’ve found him not guilty. 

The defense did request a pre-sentencing investigation. The sentencing will be held on June 25, 2019.

The state is seeking a life sentence.
 

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