Death Penalty Off Table In W-B Slaying
WILKES-BARRE — Luzerne County prosecutors announced Wednesday they will not seek the death penalty against two people accused of brutally murdering a man in his own home.
Reynaldo Mercado, 31, and a 14-year-old girl are awaiting trial on murder, burglary and other charges alleging they killed 58-year-old Fred Boote inside his home at 14 Donald court on Sept. 14.
During an arraignment Wednesday, the pair entered not guilty pleas to the charges, while prosecutors indicated they do not intend to seek the death penalty.
“The decision not to pursue the death penalty isn’t a reflection upon our view of the case as being a heinous crime, which it was,” Assistant District Attorney Tony Ross said after the hearing. “The decision was based on the fact that we believed there would be insufficient evidence to establish the aggravating circumstances that are needed to pursue the death penalty.”
Such factors include if the victim was tortured, which prosecutors determined they would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, he said. Aggravating factors also include a number of other circumstances that would not apply to Boote’s case, such as if the victim was a police officer or a person under 12 years old, he said.
According to prosecutors, the pair gained access to Boote’s house because the girl’s mother used to date him. The night of the slaying, the girl got Boote to let her inside and then left the door unlocked so Mercado could sneak in, according to prosecutors.
The charges allege he bashed Boote over the head with a lamp and stabbed him to death with a kitchen knife that the girl handed him. When Boote was dead, the pair doused him with gasoline in an attempt to destroy evidence, although the fire went out before police arrived on scene, according to prosecutors.
The charges said they fled the scene with Boote’s cellphone and about $25 in cash.
Although the girl is charged as an adult, her attorney is seeking to have her case moved to juvenile court. The Citizens’ Voice is not identifying her until a decision has been made in that matter.
Both defendants are being held without bail at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility.
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