An accomplice in the homicide of two alleged drug dealers in Bonita Springs pleaded to an accessory charge on Tuesday, the first of six suspects to come to terms with prosecutors.
Robert Patrick Downey Jr., who turned 31 on Tuesday, may testify against fellow defendants after pleading guilty to accessory after the fact of second-degree murder, a felony that carries a maximum 15-year sentence in prison.
The deal does not recommend a sentence, but the suspect’s lawyer, Sebouh Gourjian, said prosecutors will recommend a lighter punishment if Downey fulfills his obligations.
Lee Circuit Judge Thomas S. Reese, due to retire in January, reminded a shackled Downey that another judge will assume the case and would likely sentence the suspect.
“Anything within that 15 years is possible,” Reese said. “A lot of it depends on your fulfilling your agreement with the state, you understand that?”
Downey said he did.
The deal reduces Downey’s bond to $5,000, allowing him to return home from the Lee County Jail, where he has been held since late September. Downey’s last known address is on Arbor View Boulevard in Naples.
His plea comes two weeks after his arrest, a turnaround uncommon in complex cases such as homicides. Downey was only formally charged this morning, moments before his court appearance.
Downey was present during the slayings of alleged drug dealers Daniel Leonor, 24, and Israel Ponce, 20, at a Bonita Springs home on Aug. 1. Detectives say the victims arrived at the Bridgeport Lane home to sell cocaine when they were jumped, beaten and suffocated. Their bodies were discovered that evening inside Leonor’s Jeep, which had been abandoned and set ablaze off a rural Lee County road, just east of Bonita Springs.
The suspect told a detective he was inside the house at the time of the killings but was sent to a back room with another suspect, Angel Heredia, when Leonor entered the home. Downey said that he and Heredia heard “a ruckus” and rushed back into the living room, where they found a melee surrounding Leonor.
The three assailants, identified as Dustin McIntyre, 21, Lisandro Resendiz, 21, and Colton Lance, 20, then invited Ponce to come inside the home, Downey said. The three men then jumped and attacked Ponce.
Both men died when their assailants pulled plastic bags over their heads, suffocating them.
Downey helped clean the home after the attacked, and he later assisted the other suspects in hiding a black Jeep used during the crime, he told the detective.
McIntyre and Resendiz have each been formally charged with two counts of second-degree murder and a count of second-degree arson. Resendiz also faces two counts of kidnapping.
Lance was arrested on homicide, arson and kidnapping charges but has yet to be formally charged. Heredia, 23, was arrested on a misdemeanor accessory charge, and Angel Salinas, 17, was arrested on a felony accessory charge. Both await formal charges.
Tuesday outside the courtroom, Downey’s mother, Cathleen Richichi, 57, said she believed the deal was her son’s best option. She said he had been afraid to go against the killer’s wishes.
“Fear,” she said. “I think it was his fear.”
Downey, who goes by ‘Bobby,’ stood straight, looked toward Reese and answered questions clearly during the hearing. He said he suffered from learning disabilities and had dropped out of school after the 9th grade. He understood the plea and believed it was in his best interest, he said.
His sentencing will be deferred until the other cases are concluded. His sentencing score sheet recommends a minimum sentence of 40.3 months, or more than 3 years.
While on bond, Downey will be required to find employment and maintain a curfew, remaining at home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.