Sunday, April 22, 2018

Judge denies bail for men accused of killing two Orlando-area teens

ORLANDO — Two men charged with murder in the deaths of two teenagers whose bodies were found engulfed in flames along a central Florida trail were denied bond Saturday.

Jesse Brandon Davis and Hector Manuel Rodriguez made their first appearance before a judge since being charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping in the deaths of Nicholas Presha, 16, and Jeremy Stewart, 18.

Davis was arrested last month on unrelated charges; Rodriguez was arrested Friday.

The teens met Davis, 30, and Rodriguez, 31, in April with the intention of selling them two stolen handguns. Instead the men robbed and shot them to death, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. A passerby later discovered their bodies engulfed in flames along a popular trail.

Detectives believe Presha and Stewart had stolen the guns from the Winter Park area, a small city near Orlando where both teens were close friends and went to school.

The suspects have lengthy criminal records; Rodriguez has previous convictions for charges including theft and battery; Davis' record includes a conviction for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, among other charges.

Davis was serving three years' probation at the time of the killings for attacking a man in a 2008 road rage incident, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He was identified as a delusional schizophrenic who was institutionalized in a mental hospital 2009, according to court records.

Davis is also facing an attempted first-degree murder charge in the shooting of a man in an attempted robbery in early February, the newspaper reported.

"They are cold, heartless killers," Orlando County Sheriff Jerry Demings said at a press conference Friday.

The teens' violent deaths shocked the Winter Park community, which mobilized to help pass out flyers seeking information and hold candlelight vigils in the days and weeks after their bodies were discovered.

Stewart's father told the Orlando Sentinel the arrests did provide some relief for his family.

"I hope there's some justice," James Stewart said. "There's still a long road ahead."

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