JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A lead that came out of a separate murder case has given the families of the two men and two women shot to death four years ago in Murray Hill some answers about their loved ones.
A rare courtroom meeting during a recess of Friday's sentencing of Lewis Braclet and Derek Williams in an execution-style murder of Keith Thompson 18 months ago, Braclet met face-to-face with family members of the four people in their 20s shot to death in a Murray Hill home in November 2013.
Braclet provided details of the deaths of Derek Williams, sisters Keshell Brown and Keyonna Brown, and Gontrell Hagans. One family member told News4Jax the meeting gave them everything but closure.
"He gave us details on our granddaughters and how they got murdered," the Brown sisters' grandfather told News4Jax. "I told him how I felt. I told him what he did and how he hurt us."
"They had us make a statement with him with no one else in the courtroom and he didn't seem remorseful," said Tashay Brown, the sisters' aunt. "No apologies, nothing. He just sat there with a smirk on his face."
With no leads, the homicides of the four young people in a Randolph Street home went unsolved for years until Braclet broke his silence while awaiting sentencing in the 2016 murder.
The extent of Braclet's knowledge and involvement in the Murray Hill killings remains unclear. Braclet implicated himself in the killings and provided prosecutors with two other names that are not being released at this time.
Assistant State Attorney London Kite said his cooperation and information on the case was significant, and she hinted that Braclet may not be prosecuted in the Murray Hill case. So far, Braclet's information but has not resulted in any criminal charges, but the State Attorney's Office told News4Jax that it expects to close the 2013 quadruple murder case in the next few weeks.
"They were always smiling and always laughing. They had goals and ambitions," Tashay Brown said. "Keshell was getting ready to be a dancer and started school for that. Keyonna was getting ready to go to EWC that January after the murder."
Rhonda Peoples-Waters, who has no connection to the case, said this kind of closed-door courtroom meeting with murder victims' families is rare and could provide some information that could help them cope with their loved-ones' deaths.
"It also brings about some opportunity maybe for closure and it may lead to some arrest that may not have otherwise happen," Peoples-Waters said. "That's why the State Attorney's Office has this type of interest in working with defendants and cooperating and the law actually allows to mitigate or reduce a defendants sentence when they cooperate."
Peoples-Waters said Braclet's information must have been credible or prosecutors would not have set up the meeting with the families.
"He may have had details of how the murders occurred, or who was shot first -- those type of details that let the SAO know, 'OK, he's a credible person and these are details nobody else would've known except for their involvement in the case,'" Peoples-Waters said."That info may have brought about some peace for the victims, or at least hear what happened to their loved ones, and as well it can be utilized if there is a trial to come forth in the arrest of others."
Brown's family members said hearing the details of the murder was painful, but more painful is the feeling of injustice.
"We are very hurt and we're not going to stop until we get justice," the slain sisters' grandfather said.
"Just because we know what happened and it was senseless doesn't help," Tashay Brown told News4Jax. "They died for no reason; no apparent reason."
Kite said the state had nothing to go on before Braclet came forward with information on the 2013 slayings, and that details of what happened and who was involved will become clear when the State Attorney's Office releases a disposition statement on the case later this month.
Both Braclet and Williams pleaded guilty to the 2016 murder. Braclet was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Williams to 15 years.
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