49ºF

Widow fearful after police say mastermind in husband's murder attempts jail escape

JSO: Jecorian McCray had been carving hole in his jail cell

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The widow of a university employee killed in his own home is living in fear after police say the man who orchestrated the murder of her husband attempted to escape from jail. 

Jecorian McCray, who is charged with the murder of  University of North Florida employee Joe Brenton, now faces additional charges of attempted escape from jail and criminal mischief.

After receiving a tip from the mother of another inmate, police discovered Wednesday night that McCray, 23, had been carving a hole in the wall of his cell and had bed sheets tied up like a rope, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. 

It's just another reason Venus Brenton, the widow of Joe Brenton, said she continues to fear for her safety. 

"(It's) very scary because he’s got so much pull," Venus Brenton told News4Jax Monday. "We don’t even know if we can live here safely. Sometimes we stay, and sometimes we don’t, depending on how safe we feel."

Joe Brenton, 48, was shot and killed at his Oceanway home in September, hours before he was slated to testify against McCray in a 2014 burglary case.

Earlier this month, jailhouse calls were released, detailing what police say is McCray, who had been in jail since January 2015 on the burglary charges, ordering a hit against Joe Brenton, which was carried out by his 17-year-old stepbrother Dakari Maxwell. 

"It’s a scary time. I can’t believe it, I’m very lost. If it wasn’t for God, I’d have nothing," Venus Brenton said.

Venus Brenton said the house that she and her husband shared for 20 years no longer feels like home. 

"We’re going to sell the home. It’s not safe. His (McCray’s) dad lives right down the street. They go back and forth every day, so his mom and them can tell them everything that we’re doing -- when we’re here and when we’re not," Venus Brenton said. "So, we live, kind of, scared."

As she still learns to live without her husband, Venus Brenton shared a message for McCray. 

"You ruined my family, but God is going to see us through it," she said. "You tore your brother’s life up. Not only that, you’ve got a 1-year-old little girl that’s still without her mama. All these people have been affected by you."

Detectives investigating the homicide listened to the jail recordings, which also include McCray talking about getting his 21-year-old girlfriend, Teirany Shelton, to visit Brenton's home and ask him to take back his statements about the burglary because McCray was "looking at 30 years."

When the bribery attempt didn't work, McCray turned to more lethal measures, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Acting on information in those recordings, police obtained arrest warrants charging McCray and Maxwell with murder, 19-year-old Demetris Ford with criminal conspiracy and Shelton with tampering with a witness.

Maxwell is accused of shooting and killing Brenton, and is being tried as an adult in the murder case. He and McCray have been arraigned in that case.

McCray is being held without bond at the Duval County Jail. His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 9.