Man pleads guilty to role in double murder
PUNTA GORDA — The man involved in the 2007 double murder and robbery of two Englewood residents pleaded guilty to lesser charges on Monday at the Charlotte County Justice Center for his role in the crime.
Mason Washington, 36, pleaded guilty before Circuit Judge Christine Greider to two counts of manslaughter with a firearm and one count of robbery with a firearm, receiving 25 years in prison for each count, according to State Attorney spokeswoman Samantha Syoen. Washington will serve those terms concurrently, meaning he will face 25 total years in prison, Syoen said. Washington was facing two counts of capital murder prior to the plea agreement.
Washington also received five years of probation for each count, and he must pay all funeral expenses the victims’ families incurred, Syoen said, adding that the State Attorney’s Office felt a plea deal was the best course of action for a case that was five years old.
“You can have a lot of complications in a case where this much time has passed. It also brings closure to the families, who have been through a lot,” Syoen said.
Washington had been found guilty in 2009 of the original charges, receiving life in prison, but an appeal went unheard after the original presiding judge, Lynn Dailey, died from breast cancer.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled that Judge George Richards, who succeeded Dailey, could not rule on the motion, since he was not present during the trial, and Washington’s new trial was scheduled to last two weeks starting on Sept. 18.
Jury selection for the new trial lasted most of the day on Monday, but potential jurors were dismissed Monday afternoon after the plea deal was struck. Ita Neymotin, a spokeswoman for the public defender’s office, could not be reached for comment.
Washington was one of five people 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.
Two other defendants, Tristan Anthony Hampton and Felton Joseph Stevens, both 21, would later admit to actually pulling the trigger. Felton 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.
Danielle Stephanie Williamson, 21, the girlfriend of another man that lived at the home, received 12 years in prison as part of a plea deal as an accomplice to the crime, in which she informed the group the men kept $1,300 in cash at the residence.
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 she violated probation.
Washington drove the car that took the group to the house and carried the gun used to murder Rodriguez and Lopez-Rodriguez. The gun was stolen from the home of South Venice residents Doug and Jan Jones, who were former neighbors of Washington.