Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Jurors in Donald Montanez trial take field trip to crime scene

TAMPA — On Friday morning, a white van headed down Bonacker Drive and stopped in front of a McDonald's distribution plant. Out of the van stepped the jurors who will decide if Donald Montanez is guilty of murder.

On a rare field trip in a murder case, the jurors took their clipboards and walked down the industrial strip, which ends behind a night club once known as the Sugar Shack.

This was where it began on Jan. 8, 2006, with Montanez towing Glen Rich's Chrysler Sebring. Rich had parked the car while he was celebrating his brothers' arrival in Tampa at the Sugar Shack. Prosecutors say the car was parked in the right-of-way.

Jurors studied the fence line at a hardware business. One juror counted her paces from the edge of the road to some trees.

Away from the jurors, Montanez and his legal team stood in the sun and took notes as jurors took notes. Prosecutors gripped water bottles and watched. The judge, reporters and about 10 deputies watched, too.

After about 20 minutes, the jurors got back in the van and headed a block away, to a site off E Hanna Avenue, not far from a cement plant. Passing trucks kicked up dust.

Jurors got out at a spot between a school district warehouse and TJ's Wood Furniture, where workers stared out from open doorways.

This was where Montanez was loading towed cars on a flatbed truck. Prosecutors say he had no right to use that property and was trespassing.

Rich, his two brothers and a best friend tracked their car to the lot, where Rich demanded it back. His three companions said Montanez pulled a pistol with a red laser sight and pointed it at them.

Rich got in his Chrysler, started it and accelerated forward.

Brother Ernest Rich said he heard a gunshot and began running. "I thought (Montanez) was going to shoot me next."

The third brother, Celester Rich, said he also heard the gunshot, then realized the red beam was pointed at him.

"(Montanez) had it aimed at my head. He said, 'Your buddy's in trouble now.'"

Both Ernest and Celester ran from the lot and found Glen Rich mortally wounded at a nearby gas station.

On Friday morning, jurors took notes as they looked at the spot where the flatbed trailer had been parked, where Rich's car had been parked behind it. They looked at the fence line of the school district warehouse. The juror who counted her paces at the first scene did it again here.

Lawyers craned their necks to see how jurors studied the scene. A deputy toweled off his sweaty bald head.

After about 20 minutes, the jurors silently filed back on the van. They were returning to the courthouse. The trial recessed on Friday and continues Monday.

Reach Jodie Tillman at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.

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