BROOKSVILLE — Faced with the possibility of life in prison for his role in a botched murder-for-hire plot, Kender Noel took a plea deal Wednesday that will keep him in prison for five years, followed by two years of house arrest.
Assistant State Attorney Rob Lewis said Noel, who was being tried this week on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and principal to armed home invasion robbery in Hernando, caught a lucky break on a "technical issue.''
Circuit Judge Jack Springstead on Wednesday tossed out part of a statement Noel had made to investigators about an Orlando car-jacking incident.
Although he felt he still had a strong case, Lewis said it would be prudent not to jeopardize the outcome of the trial.
"It was a strategic call on my part," Lewis said. "At least one statement was going to be inadmissible. I did what I thought was best. Getting this guy (was) no cakewalk."
Prosecutors said Noel, 34, of Kissimmee, masterminded a plan in November 2008 to recruit three other Orlando men — Esnel Jean Baptiste and Frans Guerrier and an unidentified man named "Mitch" — to kill the husband of Noel's friend, Jacqucia Francois, at her home in northwest Hernando County, and then make it look like a home invasion.
According to reports, the men arrived at the home on Nov. 18 to find that Francois' husband had already left for work. The men then ransacked the home, trying to find drugs and money that Francois and Noel had promised them.
When they couldn't find any, they went into the bedroom of the couple's 13-year-old son and ordered him out of bed at gunpoint. After tying up the boy, the men waited inside the house until Francois arrived about 7:30 a.m. Baptiste told detectives that "Mitch" tried to get Francois to enter the home so the men could confront her, but she refused and started screaming once neighbors came outside to investigate. Later, the men fled back to Orlando.
In July, Francois pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and received a four-year prison sentence. Baptiste pleaded to a lesser charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping while armed, receiving a three-year sentence in September.
Guerrier also pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in October and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 23.
Noel still faces carjacking charges in Orlando.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.