A Palm Beach County jury on Thursday found accused serial rapist Baltazar Gabriel Delgado-Ros guilty of sexual battery with a deadly weapon and burglary in the 2009 rape of a suburban Lake Worth woman, charges that could send the 30-year-old former Lake Worth man to prison for two life terms.
The verdict, that brought tears of relief to his 35-year-old victim, came after roughly two hours of deliberation over two days following a two-day trial.
“I am so thankful to the jurors for seeing the truth in this case and helping me finally get justice,” the woman, who is not being identified due to the nature of the attack, said after the verdict. “After seven years we can finally start to heal and put this behind us.”
In a written statement she read to Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer, she said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and still suffers panic attacks. She asked the judge to give Delgado-Ros the maximum punishment when he is sentenced on Jan. 10.
“I don’t want him to ever have the chance to hurt another woman,” she said. “No one should have to go through what I did.”
However, four other woman from Jupiter to Lake Worth claim they too were raped by Delgado-Ros from 2009-2011 before he was arrested in his native Guatemala in 2014 and brought back here to stand trial. He is to be tried in February in connection with one of the other attacks.
His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Maurissa Jones, sought to persuade the jury that he did not break into the woman’s house near Palm Springs and rape her. Instead, she argued, he was friends with the woman’s then-husband, who was in jail at the time awaiting deportation, and the sex was consensual.
When Joel Jones raped a woman in August 2014 after she answered a Craigslist ad for a job with an office cleaning business, he called 9-1-1 on himself after he told her he did it to earn a trip to prison so he could get even with the person who had killed his 14-year-old son.
On Thursday, Circuit Judge Jack Cox made at least the prison part of Jones’ request come true, sentencing him to 25 years more than two months after a jury convicted him of armed sexual battery.
The sentence was less than the life in prison sentence that Assistant State Attorney Chrichet Mixon requested, but at 49 years old and with no possibility of credit for good behavior on the 25-year minimum mandatory sentence, Jones will likely spend the rest of his days behind bars.
“This case is not really about what someone did to your child, but what you did to someone else’s child,” Cox told Jones. “The things that you did to her was completely beyond the realm of what a human being should do to another human being.”
According to an arrest report, Jones first met the victim when she filled out an application to work for his cleaning business two weeks earlier. On the night of the attack he lured her to a doctor’s office in unincorporated Palm Beach Gardens for a cleaning job, showed her the rooms she was supposed to clean, then raped her at knifepoint in one of the rooms.
Jones would later say that his attack was prompted by the shooting death of his 14-year-old son, and that he raped the woman because “this is how he would get to the people who killed his son,” according to an arrest report.
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Jones was convicted for sexual battery and burglary in 1991 and served more than two years of a six-year sentence. He is not listed in Florida’s sexual offenders database because the Florida Sexual Predator Act does not include those convicted of sex-related crime before Oct. 1, 1993.
He also served almost eight years in prison for second-degree murder, though his sentence was 12 years, according to department of corrections records.
Calling their actions “shocking” and “unspeakable,”a judge on Monday sentenced Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson to multiple life sentences in prison for forcing a group of Delray Beach teens into sex.
The sentence comes a month after jurors convicted the men in the 2010 robbery in an abandoned house where three boys and a girl were forced into sex with each other.
Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes announced the sentences after hearing from the father of one of the boys, as well as the female victim, who said she’s struggled to resume a normal life after the attack.
“I hope that they repented what they did because it’s not nice to be the one experience such acts and being forced to do the things that occurred,” she said. “I just hope that it doesn’t’ happen to them.”
Lherisson received 11 total life sentences, plus another 20 years in prison. Henry received five life sentences
When the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 ruled that juveniles can’t be sentenced to life without parole for non-homicide offenses, it meant that those who commit crimes when they are young must be given a reasonable chance to someday live outside prison walls, the West Palm Beach court wrote. The nation’s high court ruled juveniles must be given special consideration because their brains aren’t fully developed, they don’t always fully understand the consequences of their actions and they are amendable to rehabilitation.
The 70-year sentence Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Charles Burton handed Cunningham in 2014, after the high court ruling, doesn’t provide Cunningham, now 27, the opportunity to prove he has been rehabilitated and should be allowed to live outside prison walls.
In its decision, it noted that the Florida Supreme Court in 2015 threw out 90-year and 70-year sentences for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. The lengthy sentences, the appeals court wrote, “did not provide the defendant with a meaningful opportunity for early release based upon maturity and rehabilitation.”
Cunningham will have to be brought before Burton for re-sentencing.
Jury selection has been postponed in Palm Beach County in a 1987 cold case where a convicted sex offender is accused of raping and killing a 27year-old mother of three.
Jury selection was set to begin Thursday morning in the first degree murder case of Rodney Clark, accused in the death of Dana Fader. But legal arguments stopped that process, and the case is now set for a status check Friday.
Fader, of Lake Worth, was found strangled to death, the tan dress she’d borrowed from her sister hiked up to her waist, in the back seat of her car shortly after relatives reported her missing.
The case went cold until several years ago, when investigators linked DNA from semen found at the scene to Clark. By then, Clark was living in Mississippi.
Authorities arrested Clark in 2013. His case marks the first death penalty case to go to trial locally since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the way Florida courts decide death penalty cases was unconstitutional.
On Monday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill changing the state’s death penalty trial process. The new law requires a minimum 10-2 majority recommendation for judges to impose a death sentence.
Previously, judges could impose a death sentence based on a simple majority vote from a jury, and the judge could base his or her ruling on independent findings.
UPDATE 5:31 p.m.: It took jurors about an hour Wednesday to decide to convict Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson of 24 charges – including armed robbery, armed rape and false imprisonment charges – in connection with the bizarre 2010 robbery where fourt teens were forced to perform sex acts on each other.
Henry, 26, tilted his head back as the verdicts were read against him. Lherisson, having heard the guilty verdicts against Henry before a court clerk read his own convictions, stood stoically as the verdicts were read against him. The 25-year-old kept his eyes on the three men and three women on the jury.
The verdicts mean both men, whose first trial ended in mistrial four years ago, could face up to life in prison when Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sentences them next month.
UPDATE 5:15 p.m.: Jurors just announce that they’ve reached a verdict in the retrial of two men accused of forcing four Atlantic High School students into sex acts in an abandoned Delray Beach home in 2010.
The verdict came about an hour after Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent jurors to begin deciding the case.
Attorneys have just returned to the courtroom.
ORIGINAL POST: The text message, written with both street slang and text abbreviations, had clear instructions for its recipient:
“Cum to da trap asap wt da fye thru da fnt doe asap kum naw wt da fye,” the sender wrote.
In closing arguments in Francisco Henry and Massillon Lherisson’s rape and robbery trial Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Jo Wilensky that Lherisson sent that message to Henry to get him to bring “fye” – street slang for a gun – to an abandoned Delray Beach house where they robbed and forced four Atlantic High School students into sex acts.
Wilensky and fellow prosecutor Chrichet Mixon both used phone records between Henry and Lherisson, and the victims’ identifications of them, in their last attempts Wednesday to convince jurors to convict them of 24 charges that include armed sexual battery, armed robbery and false imprisonment.
“Those kids lives are forever changed by what they were made to do,” Mixon said.
The fact that both men disconnected their phones
Henry’s attorneys, Joseph Walsh and Crystal Kim, and Lherisson’s attorney, Joshua LeRoy. used the phone records conversely to tell jurors that even if prosecutors could link the phones to the men, they didn’t prove any wrongdoing.
“Fye,” Walsh told jurors, is also a term to describe good marijuana, and Henry used to sell marijuana. And even the one victim who said he knew Henry because he’d purchased marijuana from him couldn’t point him out in the courtroom last week until near the end of his testimony.
If the two men were forcing the teens to perform sex acts on one another, LeRoy said, then why did none of the victims recall either of the assailants ever taking a phone call when phone records show both held phone conversations at the time the victims say the attack occurred?
Walsh and LeRoy both spoke about Spencer Britt, a man initially arrested in the attack but released after one of the victims came forward and said he wasn’t involved.
Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes sent jurors to begin deliberations just after 4 p.m.
If convicted as charged, both men face up to life in prison. This is the second trial in four years on the case. A first trial in 2012 ended in a mistrial.
When a group of four students from Atlantic High school decided to skip school after lunch on Feb. 18, 2010, prosecutors told a jury Thursday, they never imagined that it would end with a bizarre and violent encounter with a pair of strangers that made them commit sex acts on one another at gunpoint.
Assistant State Attorney Jo Wilensky told jurors that Massillon Lherisson, 25, and Francisco Henry, 26 – both facing 17 counts of armed sexual battery, three counts of armed robbery, and four counts of unlawful imprisonment – found the teens playing cards in an abandoned house and played with them for a while before Lherisson took out a gun.
Wilensky and fellow prosecutor Chrichet Mixon say the victims will testify that the two men then forced them to put all their belongings on the counter.
“But that wasn’t enough, that wasn’t enough for Lherisson,” Wilensky said, adding that the pair then sexually assaulted the only girl in the group of four and eventually had the four of them perform sexual acts on one another.
Henry’s attorneys, Crystal Kim and Joseph Walsh, and Lherisson’s attorney, Joshua LeRoy, told jurors in their opening statements that neither of their clients was involved in the attack.
Kim told jurors that the case against Henry was one of mistaken identity. Delray Beach Police placed a photo of Henry, who had twists in his hair, into a photo lineup with five other men with closely cropped hair after witnesses identified one of the assailants as having dreadlocks.
The first witnesses in the trial are expected to be the alleged victims.
Lherisson and Henry first stood trial in 2012, but that trial ended in a mistrial shortly before prosecutors rested their case.
Francisco Henry was arrested in February 2010 and Massillon Lherisson months later after three boys and a girl said the men found them at an abandoned house and held them at gunpoint.
The pair went to trial in 2012, but that trial ended in a mistrial after a Delray Beach Police detective testified that Henry invoked his right to an attorney when he was arrested, a fact that court have widely held should not be disclosed to jurors in criminal trials.
Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes began the process of interviewing more than 100 prospective jurors today, along with Assistant State Attorney Crichet Mixon, Assistant Public Defenser Joseph Walsh and defense attorney Joshua Leroy.
Attorneys in the case expect to seat a jury by Wednesday.