TAMPA — Hillsborough prosecutors will seek the death penalty for a Tampa man they’ve accused of killing a 14-year-old girl.
The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office on Friday filed a notice of intent to pursue the ultimate punishment for Ronny Tremel Walker, who is charged with first-degree murder with a firearm in the fatal shooting of Nilexia Alexander.
In the filing, prosecutors argue that three aggravating factors justify the death penalty if Walker is convicted: the crime was “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel”; the offense was carried out in “a cold, calculated manner”; and it was committed by a defendant previously convicted of “a capital felony or a felony involving the use or threat of violence to a person.”
Nilexia’s adopted mother, Ashley Alexander, said Monday that prosecutors asked her a few weeks ago what penalty she would like to see.
“I did tell them I was pushing death,” she told the Tampa Bay Times.
A prosecutor called her Friday to tell her that the office would, indeed, seek capital punishment.
“If he can take someone’s life like there’s nothing to it, he doesn’t deserve his own,” she said.
The crime occurred a little before 4 a.m. May 6, in a vacant, weed-choked lot at 110 W Floribraska Ave. just south of Tampa Heights. Neighbors reported hearing gunshots. Someone stepped outside and found a girl lying dead in the field. She’d been shot in her head.
Police learned the girl was Nilexia and had run away from her mother’s Temple Terrace home 10 days before her body was found.
The investigation led to Walker, and police obtained a search warrant for his vehicle. They found blood on the front and rear passenger doors, investigators said. DNA tests matched the blood to Nilexia.
Hillsborough Public Defender Julianne Holt’s office is representing Walker and on Monday declined to comment on the state’s death penalty filing.
Holt last month filed a motion seeking an examination to determine if Walker is competent to stand trial. Holt’s office “has a good faith belief that (Walker) has mental health issues,” the motion states. A competency hearing is set for Oct. 17.
Walker was found guilty of manslaughter in 2010 and sentenced to life in prison for shooting Elaine Lanier Caldwell in her head during a home invasion robbery. But there were problems with his trial, and an appeal sent the case back to court. Lawyers then struck a deal: a guilty plea in exchange for eight years. He got out in 2016. A subsequent probation violation sent him back for four more years.
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Walker last left prison in November. Nilexia was killed in May.
“I hope this brings some justice for his last victim’s family,” Ashley Alexander said. “His previous charges, that’s what made my mind up.”
Another man, 45-year-old Robert Quincy Creed Jr., has been charged with being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder in Nilexia’s killing.
Walker’s pending case in Hillsborough is the second in which acting Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez has decided to seek the death penalty since Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed her after suspending State Attorney Andrew Warren. It’s the office’s seventh pending death penalty case.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan contributed to this report.