MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Ernest Roberts, a former assistant principal of Miami Norland Senior High School, who is accused of killing a Miami Gardens teacher has pleaded not guilty to her murder.
Ernest Roberts did not appear at a scheduled court hearing on Tuesday. His lawyer entered a written plea.
He’s charged with second-degree murder for the death of Miami Norland Senior High School teacher Kameela Russell.
Russell, a 41-year-old mother of two, was last seen May 15 as she pulled up to her aunt’s home along NW 203rd Street and 15th Avenue and suddenly pulled back out of the driveway. Then she vanished and her body was not found until 10 days later when it was pulled from a Miami Gardens canal.
Russell and Roberts have known each other since they were children and he is the God Father of both of her children.
Roberts had been an assistant principal at Norland where Russell also worked, but he was transferred to Linda Lentin K-8 Center in North Miami 7 months before she went missing.
On May 20, five days after her disappearance, Roberts was supposed to chaperone a school trip to Washington D.C. That same day, a school employee called investigators to report that “Roberts called him that morning and told the employee to go to a specific file cabinet inside a conference room at the school and find a note,” according to his arrest warrant.
The note read: “Do you know anyone that can chop up a car? If so or make it “disappear” take these keys. Its behind the speedway racetrack on 441 by County line. Friends are gone and need it to disappear. If not leave + I’ll work it out later. Thrown this note away!”
Along with the note, were the keys to an Audi.
Instead of doing what the note asked of him, the employee called the police. Detectives recovered the note and the keys.
That same employee, in a face-to-face meeting with detectives, told them about the first phone call from Roberts on May 15.
In that call, the arrest warrant states Roberts said, “I did something crazy.” The employee says Roberts told him, “He confronted an intruder in his mother’s house and hit the person with a baseball bat.” In a later conversation, Roberts told him, “He not only hit the intruder with the bat, but killed the intruder. He explained he wrapped the body in a tarp and dragged the body through the house leaving bloodstains. Roberts also asked the employee how to get rid of bloodstains. The employee told him he could use Clorox but thought he was kidding about the incident at the time.”
On May 20, detectives found Russell’s car at the Speedway Gas Station.
The warrant states when detectives went to Roberts’ home, they spotted several drops of apparent blood by the front door. After a search warrant was obtained, police found several items with traces of blood in the master bedroom. They also found extensive evidence of efforts to clean up the residence and the smell of bleach was prevalent throughout the residence.
DNA tests showed the blood in Roberts’ master bedroom matched Russell.
On May 15, security cameras at Roberts’ home were ‘abruptly’ shut off at 5:48 p.m. and not turned back on until May 17 at 4:50pm, eliminating any video footage during that time, says the warrant. However, a neighbor had surveillance cameras, which shows “Russell pulling into his driveway on May 15 at 6:03pm. Less than an hour later, at 6:54pm, Roberts is seen getting into the Audi and backing it up close to the front door and opening the trunk. He is seen coming in and out of the home and toward the trunk of the Audi several times. At 7:10pm, he drives away in the Audi. Russell is never seen leaving the home.”
THE PHONE CALL
Cell phone records also show the last person to have any telephone contact with Russell was Roberts at 6:01pm.
Russell’s body was found in the canal on May 25. The warrant states her body was wrapped in a tarp and in the same clothes she was wearing the day she was seen in the surveillance video walking into Roberts’ home.
A verification of death certificate revealed Russell died from blunt head injury and her death was ruled a homicide.
According to Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Roberts began working at Miami-Dade County Public Schools in August 2004. He started working as a teacher at Miami Norland Senior in December 2012. In August 2017, he was appointed Assistant Principal at Norland. He was transferred to Linda Lentin K-8 Center in February 2019. His transfer had no association with the Miami Gardens Police Department investigation. He has no prior disciplinary history with the District.
Roberts trial is scheduled for October.