ELYRIA — Two people have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the 2016 killing of Jimmie Holland Jr. during a burglary, but neither will be sentenced until they testify for the state against Elliott Kirkland, who faces the death penalty.
Mark Sanchez and Latrice Thomas each pleaded guilty to charges before Judge James Miraldi.
Sanchez, 26, of Lorain, had been indicted for aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, felonious assault, burglary and obstructing justice in November 2016. If convicted, he had faced a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 14 more years in prison.
The plea agreement reached with the state, though, would dismiss the aggravated murder and murder charges, and Sanchez would be sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 14 years if he cooperates with prosecutors, according to court documents.
To receive the deal, Sanchez agreed to “answering questions, providing sworn written statements, taking one or more government-funded polygraph examinations and answering questions under oath and under penalty of perjury, according to court documents. Sanchez also agreed to testify in any trials or other court proceedings.
Thomas, 37, of Lorain, agreed to a similar deal, though she was indicted on a much lesser charge of obstructing justice, which carried a maximum sentence of three years in prison upon conviction. Thomas pleaded guilty to the indictment with the promise the state would recommend a community control sentence rather than prison.
Like Sanchez, Thomas’ deal hinges on her cooperating with the state by testifying in trials and other court proceedings.
The sentencing of both Sanchez and Thomas will not take place until 2019, though, for which there are a couple reasons, according to Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will.
“There’s two reasons for the sentencing being delayed,” Will said.”One, yes, because we want to ensure their cooperation. Two, there is a case that came down, probably about a year and a half ago, out of the Ohio Supreme Court that said when you cut a negotiated plea with someone, if there is some specific performance they’re supposed to perform to make that complete, once they get sentenced, the court no longer has jurisdiction over them.”
If Sanchez and Thomas were sentenced now, they could then refuse to testify against Kirkland, and prosecutors and the judge would be unable to vacate the plea agreement, Will said.
Kirkland faces capital murder charges for the slaying of Holland.
Lorain police were called to Holland’s Lexington Avenue apartment Aug. 29, 2016, by Jasmine Schafer, who told officers she had gone to the apartment to braid Holland’s hair. She said when she arrived, she grabbed two cans of root beer out of the fridge before she found Holland’s body.
She told police she tried to give Holland CPR before she fled the scene and called 911. Police have said the relationship between Holland and Schafer is unclear.
Police have said Schafer was initially cooperative, but said their investigation revealed she was lying about key parts of her story and was involved in stealing from Holland’s ransacked apartment.
Police recovered several missing items, including electronics and two cans of A&W root beer, from the borrowed Jeep Liberty that Schafer and a second woman, Thomas, were driving that night.
When officers confronted Schafer, she blamed Kirkland and Sanchez for the robbery. A witness reported seeing Kirkland, who told police he had been with his girlfriend the entire night, enter the apartment armed with a handgun.
Will has said because the robbery was planned, it elevated the killing to the level where prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
Schafer is facing aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and obstructing charges. Her case is still pending in court.
A trial for Kirkland is scheduled to begin Jan. 7.
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