Court Cases

Brener Helps Get Death Penalty Waived In Honor Student Double Murder by Pat Gillespie - NewPress

Jeremy Chapman wept aloud Monday, apologizing for the brutal kidnapping, rape and murder of Mariner High School honor student AnnaMarie Cruz Randazzo, while her family members sniffled quietly: After Chapman finished apologizing, Lee County Circuit judge Thomas Reese said Chapman would never set foot outside prison again, promising he would personally make a trip to any meeting in which his release is being discussed. Reese sentenced Chapman to consecutive life sentences without parole Monday for murdering two people in the span of a week in 2005. Chapman had faced the death penalty for killing Randazzo, 17 and also robbing and killing his landlord, John Hardin, 66. Aplea agreement was negotiated this past week. “The intent of the sentence is that you never see the light of day except through barbed wire and iron bans,” Reese told Chapman. “That you never walk with the decent people of the state.”

Chapman stood quietly, flanked by his defense team as State Attorney Steve Russell read aloud the seven charges against him. He was wearing a red jail jumpsuit with glasses, a manicured beard and a receding hairline, looking as much a college student as a man who murdered two people. “I’m so sincere when I say from the bottom of my heart that I’m sorry.”he said, crying cying aloud, “I will never forgive myself for this.” His attorneys pointed out after the hearing the hearing that Chapman had ahead injury when he was young and he suffered from psychological and personality problems,leading to several suicide attempts. He was also abandoned by both parents and succumbed to drug use while living on the streets. All that, attorney David Brenersaid, led to the murders. “He never really had the tools to deal with the situations in his life.” Brener said, “Once you understand the hows and the whys of the murders, we must have to feel some compassion for him even though what he did was horrible.” Chapman and Henninger were charged with kidnapping Randazzo after she went to the movies with her friends

July 22, raping her, beating her with logs and shooting her to death with BB Guns before dumping her in a refrigerator in Lehigh Acres field and setting it on fire. After they were arrested, police said, both confessed to the crimes. Chapman also admitted to killing Hardin and stealing his car and valuables, and was also later arrested for lewd and lascivious battery for impregnating a girl under 16. Brener said avoiding the death penalty was a victoryfor Chapman and keeping him in prison for the rest of his life a victory for the victims’ families and the public, “Life without parole means you get out in a cardboard box,” Brener said. “You never leave.” Chapman’s other attorney, “Ray” L. Grende, said his client’s mental problems could have served as a circumstance to keephim off the state’s death penalty list if the case came to trial, so a plea deal made sense.

“He was sort of the perfect storm,” he said. “Society ignored him, there were red flags everywhere.” Rosalie Bolin, a mitigation specialist from Tampa who worked with Brener and Grende, said she respects Russell for listening to their case and negotiating the plea.”There are no winners in this case,” she said, “We all wished we were not in that courtroom today.”But Jeff Walter, Randazzo’s stepfather, has little sympathy for Chapman. He and his wife, Mercedita Walter, wanted Chapman to die as their daughter died. Walter said he found out this morning that a plea deal had been negotiateed. “That this is another layer of disappointment from the State Attorney’s Office,” he said after the hearing. “We’re shaken at this point.” Jeremy Chapman was sentenced to consecutive life sentences for the murders of Annemarie Cruz Randazzo and John Hardin.

He will serve the life sentences from both murder cases consecutively. He will serve 15 years from the third case concurrently with the Hardin case and consecutively to the Randazzo case.Walter said a plea in which Chapman faces life in prison won’t bring any closure. Nor will Chapman’s words in court. “It’s comical,” he said of Chapman crying in court. “I’m not out to forgive anyone for that,” Russell said after the hearing that it is his job to review all the circumstances in the case that could have landed Chapman in prison for life or facing lethal injection. He said he understood the family’s position, but had to make a decision. He said in court that paternal family members of Randazzo supported the plea, though they didn’t offer comment after the hearing. Family members of Hardin didn’t offer an opinion on the matter, Russell said. “I understand that murder cases are emotional,” Russell said. “I have a responsibility, to decide the case based on the law.” As part of the agreement, Chapman will have to testify against his co-defendant, Joshua Henninger,18. He is charged in the killing of Randazzo. His trial is set for Sept.10.

Henninger’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Ken Garber, attended the hearing. But he had no comment on how the plea might affect his client’s case. Henninger, who allegedly committed the crime when he was under 18, faces life in prison.Walter, Randazzo’s stepfather, said he and his family now await the next trial. “I don’t believe the justice system brings closure, “Walter said, The damage that’s been done to the family — he’s not worth it,”

The Sentence:

In the case of Annamarie Cruz Randazzo:

  • Murder, life without parole
  • Kidnapping, life without parole
  • Sexual battery, life without parole
  • Arson 15 years


In the case’of John Hardin:


  • Murder, life without parole
  • Armed robbery, life without parole
  • In the lewd and lascivious battery case
  • Lewd and lascivious battery, 15 years