Friday, June 20, 2008


We'll see what the jury does as to punishment.

Man guilty of capital murder of ex-teacher
By Elizabeth Allen: Express-News

A jury Thursday found Jonathan Depue guilty of capital murder for shooting retired Edison High School teacher Aleta Rhodes in the head when she surprised him and others burglarizing her Southeast Side home.

Jurors were subdued, and some struggled to contain their emotions while the verdict was delivered and they were each asked if they agreed.

Friends of Rhodes, who was 57 when she died Sept. 29, 2006, said they felt justice had been done.
“I've known her since she was a little girl. We grew up in the church together,” said Rupert Claridge. “She was just good people. The kind of friend you want.”

Defense lawyers had said in opening statements that Jonathan Depue was mentally retarded, but they didn't call any witnesses. Instead, they attacked the state's case, and said prosecutors had not proven intent to kill. They gave jurors the option of finding Depue guilty of murder and burglary instead.
“I understand that Aleta Rhodes should not have died like this,” said defense lawyer Joel Perez, “but it's their job to get the right guy.”

Defense lawyers said the state leaned too heavily on the word of a convicted armed robber — Depue's brother Eric Depue, who was the driver that night.
Eric Depue said he'd looked after his little brother, said defense lawyer Ray Fuchs, “yet five minutes with the detective (and) he's giving him up.”

Prosecutor Melisa Skinner said Eric Depue may have been an armed robber, but he wouldn't have targeted Rhodes, who was their next-door neighbor when they were boys.
Eric Depue cut a deal with the state to testify against his brother, and he faces 15 years to life in prison for aggravated robbery. He said his brother and the other men told him they were targeting a house on the next street.

Eric didn't even know until the next day that it was Aleta,” Skinner told jurors — “the one person who had ever done anything to save his hide.”

Eric Depue said his brother was carrying the pistol when he and the others left the house, and that Jonathan had told him that he “just shot.”

Jonathan Depue, 23 at the time, also left a palm print on a flat-screen TV that was pulled from the wall but left in the house, giving prosecutors more than the testimony as evidence, Skinner noted, and “what is not intentional about a bullet through a 57-year-old woman's head?”
Rhodes' friend Claridge said he is less concerned with the punishment phase of the trial that begins today in Judge Philip Kazen's 227th District Court. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Claridge said he believes most fellow members of Boldtville Presbyterian Church are of the same mind.
“We want him off the streets, but the death penalty's not going to bring back Aleta,” he said.
Ruben Daniel Montoya, also charged with capital murder, is still awaiting trial, while two other men are still under investigation.