Jury selection in murder retrial starts Monday
PUNTA GORDA — Jury selection begins Monday in the new trial of Mason Washington, a former Venice resident found guilty in 2009 of committing a double robbery and homicide in Englewood.
The 12-member jury is expected to be selected Monday, and the trial is scheduled to start Sept. 18, lasting two weeks.
Washington, 36, was one of five people reportedly involved in the murders of Englewood residents Cristobal Perez Rodriguez, 24, and Jose Manuel
Lopez-Rodriguez, 22, who both were shot in the back of the head after the group went to their residence to rob them.
The weapon used in the crime, a .22-caliber rifle, was stolen from the home of South Venice residents Doug and Jan Jones, who were neighbors of Washington’s prior to the murders.
Doug said they had gone back north for the summer when they got a call from Sarasota County authorities letting them know their home had been broken into. Forty-eight hours later, Rodriguez and Lopez-Rodriguez were shot in the back of the head with his gun.
“The weapon hadn’t been used and had been in the closet collecting dust. I almost forgot about it,” Doug said. “I thought it was a joke.”
Doug Jones is one of several people expected to testify, along with Felton Stevens and Danielle Williamson, two of the individuals who participated in the murder and robbery.
Stevens and Tristan Anthony Hampton, both 21, later admitted to pulling the trigger in the murders. Stevens received 24 years in prison as part of a plea deal that had him testify against Washington. Hampton received three consecutive life terms for the crimes after he refused to testify against Washington.
Williamson, also 21, was a girlfriend of another man who lived at the residence where the murders occurred. She received 12 years in prison as part of a plea deal as an accomplice to the crime.
A fourth defendant, Tricia Leigh Wofford, 20, also pleaded guilty as a youthful offender to a robbery charge involving death, and is now in jail on charges that she violated probation.
It was determined during the original trial that Washington carried the gun used to kill both men into the home but did not pull the trigger. Washington also drove the vehicle that carried all five people to and from the crime scene, according to a report.
Washington‘s attorney at the time of his conviction filed a motion for a new trial, according to State Attorney Office spokeswoman Samantha Syoen, who said previously the judge who presided over the trial and the motion, Judge Lynne Dailey, died of breast cancer just weeks after the motion was filed.
An appellate court ruled that Judge George Richards, who succeeded Dailey, could not rule on the motion, since he was not present during the trial, Syoen said previously.
Public defender Kathy Smith, who now represents Washington, did not return calls for comment.