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Death Penalty Trial Underway for Andre Maurice Warner in 2016 FL Murder of Adam Hilarie
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Thread: Death Penalty Trial Underway for Andre Maurice Warner in 2016 FL Murder of Adam Hilarie

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    Senior Member CnCP Addict Steven's Avatar
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    Death Penalty Trial Underway for Andre Maurice Warner in 2016 FL Murder of Adam Hilarie



    Jury Selection to Begin in Auburndale Murder Case

    By Stephanie Claytor
    Bay News 9

    POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Jury selection begins March 2 for murder suspect Andre Warner, who is accused of shooting a man and then robbing him on August 20, 2016.

    • Jury selection to begin Monday in Auburndale murder case
    • Andre Warner accused of shooting, robbing man in 2016
    • Prosecutors seeking the death penalty in the case

    Authorities said the victim, Adam Hilarie, went on a date with a woman he met on the dating app, “Plenty of Fish,” who then allegedly led Warner and two other men back to Hilarie's home to rob him.

    Warner is the first to go on trial in the case.

    It’s been a long three and a half years for Hilarie’s mother, Anna Cruz, who has been waiting for the trials to begin. She finds comfort in the china cabinet she has at home full of his pictures, awards, and his urn and in the tattoo of him she has on her back.

    "It's so hard. It never stops. You think about them day in and day out,” Anna Cruz said.

    Hilarie's brother, Angel Cruz, hopes the trial will help bring closure, but admits sitting in the courtroom looking at Warner is gut-wrenching.

    "It's definitely very hard to even think about it,” Angel Cruz said.

    Arrest reports indicate Hilarie begged for his life and told the suspects he had a 5-year-old daughter and to take whatever they wanted. He was shot dead anyway.

    "They chose to take his life. For what reason? What was the reason? That bothers me to know that it was him they chose to do that to,” Angel Cruz said.

    Anna Cruz said Hilarie’s daughter is suffering the most. She called them inseparable.

    "She's not doing too good," she said. "You can tell she's suffering. She misses him. And she's going to counseling. She can’t sleep. It just isn't fair for her.”

    The family is hoping justice will finally prevail.

    “Wishing for the best. You know wishing for justice. You know all we can do is leave it in the system’s hands and hope for the best,” Anna Cruz said.

    "Whether it's life in prison or death penalty, I don’t see it being less than that and that's what I'm pushing for,” Angel Cruz said.

    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

    The trial for another suspect in the case, Gary Gray is set for October 26. The trial dates for the two other suspects in the case—Joshua Ellington and Hailey Bustos—have not been set yet.

    https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/ne...le-murder-case
    Last edited by Steven; 05-12-2020 at 04:23 AM.

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    Trial Begins For Man Accused in Dating App Slaying

    By Rick Elmhorst
    Bay News 9

    POLK COUNTY, Fla. Opening statements got under way Tuesday afternoon in a Polk County murder case that has drawn national attention.

    • Andre Warner accused of killing Adam Hilarie in 2016
    • Hilarie had met Hailey Bustos on dating app, was killed the next morning
    • MARCH 1, 2020: Jury Selection to Begin in Auburndale Murder Case
    • AUGUST 22, 2016: 3 men, woman arrested in murder of Auburndale man

    Prosecutors say the victim was set up to be robbed and ultimately killed after using a dating app.

    According to police, Adam Hilarie was just looking for love and it cost him his life in August 2016.

    Andre Warner is accused of being the trigger man.

    Authorities say Hilarie went on a date with 18-year-old Hailey Bustos after meeting her on the dating app Plenty of Fish. But early the next morning, she returned to Hilarie's apartment with three men, including warner, to rob him. And Warner ended up shooting Hilarie, according to proseuctors.

    "He was forced to his knees at gunpoint by his assailants all while he was begging for his life for the sake of his 5-year-old daughter," said Prosecutor Kristie Ducharme.

    The defense attempted to imply that Warner might not be the real killer and said that Bustos was finger-pointing to keep herself from a long sentence.

    "She is hoping that by testifying against Mr. Warner she will avoid a life sentence," Defense Attorney Robert Norgard said of Bustos.

    Hilarie's mother is not buying that idea.

    "She always said she was involved but she always said it was Andre Warner that was the shooter," Anna Cruz said. "She never stopped saying he was the shooter."

    Tuesday's testimony included the playing of a dramatic 911 call from the man who found the victim's body.

    The prosecution is seeking the death penalty against Warner. The trial is expected to take another week and a half.

    https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/ne...ng-app-slaying

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    Central figure testifies in 2016 ‘PlentyofFish’ murder in Polk

    Co-defendant Hailey Bustos testified against Andre Warner of Auburndale in his first-degree murder trial. Warner faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2016 “PlentyofFish” murder of Adam Hilarie.

    By Kevin Bouffard
    The Ledger

    BARTOW — Andre Warner’s life may hinge on the testimony of two co-defendants who have implicated him in the August 2016 murder of Adam Hilarie.

    So Warner’s lawyer, Robert Norgard, has zeroed in on the truthfulness of both co-defendants, alleging their incriminating testimony stems from their desire to get a better plea deal from the State Attorney’s Office.

    Warner, 29, is the first of four defendants to go on trial in the 2106 home robbery-murder case. He faces charges of first-degree murder, robbery with a firearm, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and burglary of a dwelling with a weapon, according to 10th District Circuit Court in Bartow.

    His three co-defendants face similar charges, but only Warner faces the death penalty. The others face the same counts, but their first-degree murder charges carry a mandatory life sentence only if convicted.

    One co-defendant, Hailey Bustos, 21, testified for more than three hours Thursday. She is a central figure in the case because she made first contact with Hilarie through a dating app called PlentyofFish.com.

    Bustos told the jury a mutual friend, Evelyn Belmont, had helped her set up her PlentyofFish account a couple weeks earlier. Bustos was staying with Belmont in her Auburndale apartment on Aug. 19, 2016, when she connected with Hilarie through the app and agreed on a date that evening.

    After the date, she returned to Belmont’s apartment around midnight and told the people there — including co-defendants Joshua Ellington, 29, of Lake Alfred and Gary Gray, 34, of Lakeland — about some of the items in Hilarie’s apartment, such as two TVs, an Xbox game system, jewelry, liquor and cash.

    One of the defendants woke her up a few hours later and asked Bustos to accompany them to Hilarie’s apartment. Bustos testified Warner and Gray went inside while she and Ellington waited in Warner’s car.

    The two emerged later and loaded up the car with Hilarie’s property, she said. Police later found many of the items in Belmont’s apartment, and Bustos identified them as his property from police photos.

    Auburndale police officers arrested the defendants three days after the incident. According to the police report, Hilaire was fatally shot once in the head.

    Bustos’ testimony may present problems for the jurors.

    She was very soft-spoken and often had to be prompted to speak up by the attorneys and Judge Jalal Harb.

    Most of her answers came in just a handful of words, often just “yes” or “no” to the lawyer’s questions. Norgard and Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme mostly summarized previous statements Bustos had made to police and in an earlier deposition.

    Norgard focused on several inconsistencies among Bustos’ previous statements and repeatedly suggested her trial testimony was an effort to get a better deal from the State Attorney’s Office.

    Bustos gave conflicting responses on that issue in her trial testimony, particularly when responding to Norgard’s summations of previous statements.

    At times Bustos acknowledged she did want a better deal, but then she also shot back at Norgard, “That’s not why I’m here for,” when he pressed the issue. When he responded that her trial testimony was based on “the goodness of her heart,” Bustos said it was.

    Norgard also attacked Bustos for remembering certain things from 2016, but couldn’t recall other key details.

    The defense attorney also got Bustos to acknowledge her initial statements to Auburndale police investigators were not truthful.

    Ducharme countered that the State Attorney’s Office had not offered a deal in exchange for her testimony.

    Norgard responded that prosecutors could reduce the charges against Bustos to lesser offenses if her testimony results in Warner’s conviction.

    “I really don’t care if I spend the rest of my life in prison,” Bustos said. “Drew (Warner) deserves it, too.”

    On Wednesday, Ellington testified at the trial and gave a similar account, Norgard said.

    But Ellington also acknowledged he was seeking a better deal from the State Attorney, he said, and he questioned his credibility as well.

    The trial is expected to go on for another two weeks.

    https://www.theledger.com/news/20200...murder-in-polk
    Last edited by Steven; 03-13-2020 at 10:52 AM.

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    Gunshot residue becomes an issue in 2016 Auburndale murder trial

    By Suzie Schottelkotte
    The Ledger

    BARTOW – In a 2016 phone call from the Polk County Jail, which jurors heard Tuesday, murder defendant Andre Warner said he wasn’t concerned about gunshot residue on his hands because he wasn’t tested for that.

    “No, they didn’t take no residue test,” he said, according to a transcript of the call provided to jurors, “and it took them a couple of days before they came and got me. I’ve took plenty of showers. I took a shower every day, and the presidue or residue only stays...on you for 24 hours.”

    But it was his lawyer’s questioning of former Auburndale Police Detective Kristi Allaire that brought Warner to tears Tuesday. Bartow lawyer Robert Norgard mentioned that Warner’s grandfather, with whom he had been talking in the phone call, had died about two weeks before the trial began March 2.

    Warner, who could face the death penalty if he’s convicted of first-degree murder, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes, then folded his tattooed hands in his lap and stared downward.

    In his questions to Allaire, Norgard pressed her on the issue of gunshot residue.

    “Just so we’re 100% clear,” he said, “there was no gunshot residue test done on Mr. Warner, just as he told his grandfather when his grandfather was pressing him about that.”

    “Right,” she said.

    Warner, 30, of Auburndale is accused of fatally shooting Adam Hilarie during a predawn home-invasion robbery on Aug. 17, 2016. He’s the first of four co-defendants to stand trial for Hilarie’s death, and the only one facing the death penalty if he’s convicted. Prosecutors have accused Warner of being the gunman.

    Hilarie, 27, a single father, was killed the same night he went on a bowling date with Hailey Bustos, 21, whom he’d met through the dating website plentyoffish.com. It was their first date, and Bustos later told detectives she had signed up a couple of weeks earlier after a friend told her she’d gotten money from men she’d met that way.

    After Hilarie dropped her off, Bustos met up with Warner, Josh Ellington and Gary Gray, and she returned to Hilarie’s Auburndale apartment to rob him, according to prosecutors.

    Bustos and Ellington remained in the car while Warner and Gray forced their way inside Hilarie’s apartment. They ordered him to his knees, prosecutors said, and Warner fired a single shot into the back of his head. He died instantly, according to an autopsy.

    The assailants grabbed televisions, an Xbox One gaming system, jewelry, some cash, three bottles of liquor and some Hilarie’s ball caps before leaving, according to Auburndale police reports.

    In an interview with detectives, Bustos said Gray and Warner had laughed that Hilarie had begged for his life for the sake of his 5-year-old daughter.

    Norgard and Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme are expected to present their closing arguments in the trial Wednesday, and the jury will begin deliberations.

    The state on Friday suspended jury trials for the next two weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but judges were given the option of continuing trials that already had begun. Circuit Judge Jalal Harb decided to move forward.

    If the jury finds Warner guilty of first degree murder, the 12 jurors will move into the trial’s penalty phase, in which they’ll hear additional testimony and deliberate to recommend whether he should receive mandatory life in prison or the death penalty. The final decision will rest with Harb.

    Warner also is charged with robbery with a firearm, armed burglary and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

    He has been held in the Polk County Jail without bail since his arrest in August 2016.

    https://www.theledger.com/news/20200...e-murder-trial

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    Polk jury convicts Andre Warner of ‘PlentyOfFish’ home-invasion murder of Adam Hilarie in Auburndale

    By Suzie Schottelkotte
    The Ledger

    A Polk jury deliberated about 2 hours before finding Andre Maurice Warner guilty of the execution-style killing of Adam Hilarie in an August 2016 home-invasion robbery and murder. Hilarie, 27, had been shot once in the back of his head in his Auburndale apartment, killing him instantly.

    BARTOW — Anna Cruz clutched her face with both hands and the tears flowed Wednesday night as Circuit Judge Jalal Harb read the jury’s verdict.

    Guilty of murder.

    Guilty of armed robbery.

    Guilty of conspiracy.

    Guilty of armed burglary.

    “My granddaughter finally has justice,” Cruz would say later.

    A jury of five men and seven women deliberated about 2 hours Wednesday night before finding Andre Maurice Warner guilty of the execution-style killing of Cruz’ son, Adam Hilarie, in an August 2016 home-invasion robbery and murder. Hilarie, 27, had been shot once in the back of his head in his Auburndale apartment, killing him instantly.

    Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Warner, 30, of Auburndale, and the jury will reconvene March 30 to hear additional testimony before offering a recommendation on life imprisonment or the death penalty. The final decision will rest with Harb, who delayed the trial’s penalty phase because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

    During the trial, co-defendant Hailey Bustos, 21, testified that she had met Hilarie through the PlentyofFish.com dating website, and went on a date with him intending to fleece him for money. She was 18 at the time, and had been told by a friend about meeting up with men through the dating app and getting them to give her money, she said.

    They went bowling on Aug. 19, and they went by Hilarie’s apartment before he took Bustos home. She met up with friends later that night, she told jurors, and reported what she had seen in his apartment — televisions, a video gaming system, marijuana, cash and liquor.

    Shortly before dawn, Warner and Gary Gray, 34, of Lakeland, forced their way into Hilarie’s apartment at gunpoint while she and Joshua Ellington, 29, of Lake Alfred, stayed in the car, Bustos told the jury.

    When Warner and Gray returned to the car, they were laughing that Hilarie had begged for his life as he kneeled on the floor, a gun pointed at his head, she said. He had told them to take anything they wanted, but to spare his life for the sake of his 5-year-old daughter, they said.

    During the trial, Warner testified that he’d had nothing to do with the killing, but had let Bustos borrow his car the night Hilarie was gunned down.

    Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme, in her closing argument, said Bustos and Ellington, who also testified against Warner, had nothing to gain by testifying. Both had admitted to their involvement in the crime, and both are facing life imprisonment if they’re convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed burglary.

    “There is no reason for them to implicate Andre Warner, except for the fact that it’s just true,” Ducharme told jurors in her closing argument Wednesday. “If they are lying about what happened, why not just take themselves out of the situation, or why not just blame Gary? Why even bring Andre Warner into this?”

    After the verdict, Cruz expressed relief that the first of the four co-defendants has been convicted of her son’s murder, but she also expressed sadness.

    “It was so unnecessary,” she said. “He took away a father, and he’s a father. He should have known better.”

    The case marked the only jury trial this week in Polk County. As a result of the coronavirus threat, the state Supreme Court suspended jury trials and grand jury proceedings across the state through the end of the month, but gave judges the option to continue trials that were already in progress. Since the Warner trial was moving into its third week this week, Harb opted to finish it.

    Warner has been in custody at the Polk County Jail without bail since his arrest in August 2016, and was ordered Wednesday to remain there pending sentencing.

    https://www.theledger.com/news/20200...-in-auburndale
    Last edited by Steven; 04-26-2020 at 05:33 AM.

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    New jury will decide life or death for Andre Warner

    Bartow defense lawyer Robert Norgard argued that the delay in bringing jurors back because of the coronavirus could allow outside influences to affect their individual decisions.

    By Suzie Schottelkotte
    The Ledger

    BARTOW — The 12 jurors who found Andre Maurice Warner guilty of first-degree murder two weeks ago for the 2018 execution-style killing of an Auburndale single father won’t be among those who consider whether he should be sentenced to death for that murder.

    On Friday, Circuit Judge Jalal Harb ordered that the jury should be dismissed because of delays resulting from the coronavirus. Earlier this month, the Florida Supreme Court had suspended all jury proceedings across the state through April 17, and Harb said Friday the suspension could be extended beyond that.

    Initially, after rendering their guilty verdict, jurors had been told to return Monday to consider a sentencing recommendation.

    With this jury dismissed, prosecutors and defense lawyers will have to select 12 new jurors, along with two alternate jurors, to recommend whether Warner should be sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment or the death penalty. A status hearing for the case has been set for May 12.

    Warner, 30, was convicted March 18 for the murder of Adam Hilarie, 27, who was fatally shot during a robbery in his Auburndale apartment after returning from a date with 18-year-old Hailey Bustos. He had met Bustos on the plentyoffish.com dating website, according to trial testimony. And after their Aug. 19 date, Bustos had met up with Warner and two others to return to Hilarie’s apartment and rob him.

    During the three-week trial, prosecutors told jurors that Warner was the gunman who killed Hilarie, and Warner testified that he’d had no involvement in the murder. He said he had let Bustos borrow his car that night.

    Now prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, and after hearing additional testimony, jurors must agree unanimously on a sentencing recommendation. The final decision on sentencing will rest with Harb.

    In a motion filed late Thursday, Bartow defense lawyer Robert Norgard argued that the unexpected delay in bringing jurors back for the trial’s penalty phase could allow outside influences to affect their individual decisions and that their memory of trial testimony could become clouded over time.

    “They are going to be thinking about ‘What penalty am I going to vote for in this case’,” Norgard said in Friday’s telephonic hearing, “and their viewpoints are going to become solidified. They are going to be formulating opinions about penalties based on things unrelated to the law.”

    Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme argued that jurors in the trial repeatedly were told not to discuss the case with anyone and not to seek out any information beyond what they had heard in the courtroom. She said that at this point, the defense team hasn’t identified that Warner has been prejudiced.

    “We can’t operate on ‘What if?’ ” she said.

    Once the jury returns for the penalty phase, she said, Harb could inquire about any outside influences that may have affected their ability to serve and address the issue at that time.

    In ruling to dismiss the jury, Harb said a juror had called his office Friday after reading on Facebook about a Florida Supreme Court order extending the suspension of jury trials. While it wasn’t the juror’s intention to come across that information, he said, there’s always that likelihood with a delay of several weeks.

    “Having considered where we are, and the potential weekly change because of this pandemic, I find that it is a prudent thing to grant the motion,” he said.

    Warner will remain in custody at the Polk County Jail until he is sentenced. He has been held without bail since his arrest in August 2018.

    https://www.theledger.com/news/20200...r-andre-warner

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