FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A Broward County jury has returned a mixed verdict in the trial of a woman accused of not protecting her children during her husband’s murderous rampage last February at a Deerfield Beach RV park.
Deanna DeJesus was charged with Aggravated Manslaughter and Child neglect in connection with the bloody standoff between her husband William De Jesus and Broward Sheriff’s deputies.
After just a few hours of deliberations, the jury announced it was hung on the charge of aggravated manslaughter, but did convict DeJesus of child neglect. The charge carries a maximum of 15 years in jail. Prosecutor Gregg Rossman said his main goal is to make sure DeJesus has no more contact with her surviving son. Rossman said, ”Whatever timeframe it takes to make sure she can have no further contact with this child or cause this child any harm that would be sufficient for me.”
DeJesus’s defense attorney, Terrence Moons, said he’s disappointed with the verdict. “We’re really disappointed,” he said, ”it’s just one of those cases that was emotional. It’s a horrible horrible factual pattern it’s one of those things that nobody could foresee,” said Moons.
A mistrial was declared on the charge of aggravated manslaughter. Rossman said he isn’t surprised, “There’s a very very sympathetic defendant here and I think ultimately that’s what held back for a juror or two,” he said. He said the state will ask for a retrial on the manslaughter charge if DeJesus does not agree to a plea. Moons didn’t comment specifically on a plea deal but said, “I don’t want to go through this again, my client doesn’t want to go through this again, I think any juror.. it’s a horrible case.”
The verdict came after both sides spent Monday morning giving their closing arguments.
“As he is being stabbed and butchered 11 times and his mother sits next to him on the bed, Samson asks, “where was mommy,” you will hear that,” the prosecution said. “She was just sitting there.”
DeJesus said Jeshiah, her son, died quickly.
“And she said he died quickly? He didn’t suffer? That’s one cut on one of his hands,” the prosecutor said while holding up a picture for the jury. “That’s the back of his hand, exploded from a stab wound.”
DeJesus’ attorney said Deanna had no time to protect her boys and that when her husband started to stab the boys, it was very fast.
“What the prosecution will have you believe is here’s William DeJesus taking approximately two minutes to butcher Josiah and then he goes next down the line and butchers the next person while they’re all just waiting, passively waiting to be the next,” said defense attorney Terrance Moons. “That’s what the state would have you believe. But it happened so fast.”
According to investigators, the DeJesus family drove from their home in Port Orange to the Highland Woods RV Park in Deerfield Beach. The family went to an RV that belonged to Ovila Plante, 76, and his girlfriend, Pierrete Beauchemin.
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, William DeJesus, 41, who was an Oxycodone addict and had cocaine in his system, shot Plante to death in front of his RV and then took Beauchemin hostage. After she realized DeJesus was going to kill his family and then kill her, Beauchemin managed to escape after a two hour hostage standoff.
In court last Thursday, the jury heard a taped interview Deanna DeJesus gave to a BSO detective just hours after the rampage ended. On the tape DeJesus described her husband as being in a ‘withdrawal’ state because he was trying to free himself of a prescription pain pill addiction as he drove around aimlessly and found his way accidentally into the RV Park.
Deanna DeJesus said after he forced her and their two children into the RV his behavior became even more erratic.
“He was going crazy. I didn’t want anything to happen, he had a gun,” Deanna DeJesus told investigator during the taping. “He would hurt me if I didn’t cooperate too. I was scared for my kids. My son was crying he was scared for me. He didn’t want to die, he’s only seven. I take Selexa, for depression, bi polar, mild schizophrenia. And my autistic son didn’t have his medicine. He was laughing, hyper, he’s beautiful, he’s an angel.”
According to BSO, William DeJesus stabbed his autistic son Jeshiah, 9, and his other son Samson, 7, multiple times in the attack that lasted several minutes. Jeshiah died of his injuries while Samson and Deanna were both critically injured. William was found dead in his RV by a police SWAT team.
The Broward County Medical Examiner said that the boys, Jeshiah and William both had cocaine in their systems when they died.
Deanna told a witness that she knew her husband sometimes crushed drugs and gave it to their sons, according to the BSO. Investigators believe DeJesus drove to South Florida to obtain drugs.
Prosecutors say during the standoff with SWAT, Deanna did nothing even though she had plenty of opportunities to flee and protect her two children. Her defense has been that she was afraid of her husband and also suffered a collapsed lung from being stabbed herself during the incident in the RV.
The state now has 90 days to decide if they will retry DeJesus for manslaughter.