Johnathan Alcegaire was sentenced to death by the State of Florida for three murders committed during a home invasion. According to court documents Johnathan Alcegaire and two other men would force their way into a Lakeland Florida home where they would shoot and kill David Washington, 24, Stacy Branch, 31, and Angelica Castro, 23. Johnathan Alcegaire would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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Johnathan Alcegaire will go to Florida’s death row for the murders of three Lakeland residents in a January 2016 drug-related shooting, Circuit Judge Jalal Harb ruled Friday.
But before Harb announced his sentence, Alcegaire had a few words of his own.
“I have been wrongfully convicted, so all of you that want my life are wrong,” he said in court.
“To the prosecution: Y’all the killers. You all are the ones guilty of murder, and perjury, and robbery, and home wrecking.
“To the families of the departed: You all were here the whole trial and know the state did not prove the case against me, but your hunger for vengeance blinded you to all the facts.”
In September, a 12-member jury deliberated about six hours over two days before finding Alcegaire, 30, of Miami, guilty in the shooting deaths of David Washington, 24, Stacy Branch, 31, and Angelica Castro, 23.
Alcegaire is the first of three Miami men accused in the predawn home-invasion murders. During his trial, the lone survivor of the shooting, Felix Campos, told jurors he saw Alcegaire among the three assailants in Washington’s home that morning. They shot Campos, too, but he survived to identify the men who he said did it. He said he had known them from previous meetings at the house.
Alcegaire was found guilty of driving to Lakeland the morning of Jan. 6 with Jamaal Smith and another man and storming into Washington’s house demanding money. During the trial, court testimony revealed that Washington had been buying drugs from the Miami men, including Alcegaire’s brother, 38-year-old Andrew Joseph, and had just returned that morning from a trip down there.
Prosecutors alleged that the gunman, who they identified as Smith, killed Washington first, then the two women, who were sleeping in their respective bedrooms.
Defense lawyers for Alcegaire argued that he had come along on the ride up from Miami, but only so he could visit friends in Lakeland. They showed searches on Alcegaire’s phone for another location to support his reasons for visiting Lakeland.
After his conviction, Alcegaire’s lawyers told the court he did not want to present additional evidence in the penalty phase — when jurors hear testimony supporting either a life sentence or the death penalty. Jurors heard only evidence from prosecutors, and after deliberating 90 minutes, they returned with a unanimous recommendation that Alcegaire be sentenced to death for each of the three murders.
But in a defense sentencing memorandum filed in February, Alcegaire’s lawyers presented arguments for sparing his life — including that the jury heard no reasons to support a life sentence, that Alcegaire wasn’t the gunman and that he’s had no behavioral problems in the three years he’s been in the Polk County Jail.
Prosecutors had argued that the murder was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner, that it was done for pecuniary gain, that the killings were committed during a robbery and that Alcegaire had prior convictions for capital crimes, with each murder in this case serving as a prior conviction to the other.
In his sentencing order, Harb said the state’s arguments supporting the death penalty outweighed the mitigating factors from the defense.
When addressing the court Friday, Alcegaire said he wasn’t seeking mercy from Harb.
“If I am to die,” he said, “then my only option is to die well — not like no stinking, begging coward. Therefore, I don’t want or expect any mercy from this court.”
Anna Branch, Stacy Branch’s former mother-in-law, said she was expecting Alcegaire to receive the death penalty.
“This is what I expected from sitting through the whole trial,” she said after Friday’s hearing. “He deserves this. He has no conscience. He has no feelings. What he said didn’t upset us — he can’t hurt us anymore.”
Christine Derby, Washington’s mother, said she’s satisfied that Alcegaire was sentenced to death.
“It won’t bring them back, and it’s still going to be a long process,” she said. “I’m glad this is over.”
She said she’s disappointed that prosecutors dropped the murder charges against Tavaris Mack, who was thought to be the third person in the house that day. But their case against Mack hinged on Campos’ testimony, and he told them after Mack was charged he could not identify Mack as the third assailant. Without his testimony, prosecutors decided in December to dismiss the charges against Mack.
Charges remain pending against Joseph and Smith, 28. While authorities haven’t alleged that Joseph was at the murder scene, prosecutors maintain he orchestrated the execution-style slayings — which, under Florida’s felony murder law, would make him legally responsible for the killings if he’s convicted. He’s scheduled to stand trial Jan. 6. No trial date has been set in Smith’s case.
Smith and Joseph remain in custody at the Polk County Jail without bail.