Christian Cruz was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for the kidnapping and murder of a man. According to court documents Christian Cruz and Justen Charles would kidnap Christopher Jemery who would later be fatally shot in the head. Christian Cruz would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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Christian Cruz was sentenced to death Wednesday for kidnapping and killing a Deltona man wrongly targeted during a drug deal.
Cruz, 26, and Justen Charles, 30, teamed up to kidnap and kill 25-year-old Christopher Jemery in Deltona on Aug. 26, 2013. The men were both convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in two separate trials by two separate juries.
Investigators believe Cruz was the triggerman who shot Jemery in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.
Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano followed the jury recommendation and sentenced Cruz to death during a hearing at the S. James Foxman Justice Center.
“For the offense of first-degree murder and felony murder of Christopher Jemery, you are hereby adjudicated guilty,” Zambrano said, “and sentenced and committed to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections to be put to death in the manner prescribed by law.”
Cruz showed now reaction at learning he would join the other 340 people on death row awaiting execution by lethal injection.
Cruz sat with his hands handcuffed and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit between his two attorneys, Clyde Taylor Jr. and his son Clyde Taylor III.
At Zambrano’s pronouncement of the death sentence, Taylor Jr. leaned over and wrote something on a legal pad. Cruz looked over at what he was writing but showed no reaction.
Zambrano also sentenced Cruz to life in prison for each of the three other charges he was convicted of: burglary while armed, robbery with a firearm and kidnapping.
While the jury recommended death for Cruz, Zambrano could have overruled the jury and sentenced him to life.
But a judge cannot overrule a jury when they recommend life in prison, as in Charles’ case.
Taylor Jr. said after the hearing that he assumed the fact that Cruz received a death sentence while Charles got life would be an issue in Cruz’s appeal, which will be handled by other attorneys.
Several of Jemery’ relatives were in the courtroom. A woman who identified herself as Jemery’s grandmother but declined to give her name said after the hearing that justice had been served.
In a statement, 7th Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza said that “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s family during this difficult time. The death sentence will not undo the harm and suffering of the victim and his family, but it does hold the defendant accountable for his viscous and tortuous murder.”
Cruz and Charles were looking for drugs and money when they burst into the apartment at the Belltower Apartments in Deltona in 2013. A small time drug dealer had once lived in the apartment but had since moved out even though he still returned to the apartment on occasion to deal drugs.
Jemery was not dealing drugs but had met the drug dealer who had offered him and Jemery’s fiancee a place to stay at the apartment until the couple got their own place. But Jemery was worried that the area was not safe so he had asked his fiancee to take their daughter and spend the night elsewhere on the night Cruz and Charles burst in.
Cruz and Charles beat and stomped Jemery, tied him up and threw him in the trunk of his rental car. Then they drove him to an industrial park where Jemery was shot in the head and left in some bushes.
Just 10 days after the killing, Cruz and Charles robbed a Hungry Howie’s in Sanford at gunpoint, which was the violent felony in the aggravating circumstances. Cruz pistol-whipped the restaurant’s manager during the robbery. The jurors in both trials were shown security video of the armed robbery.
“Again, horribly sad in this case is that Mr. Jemery was an innocent victim not involved in the drug trade,” Zambrano wrote in his order. “He didn’t have drugs or the proceeds from drug sales to offer the defendants.”