A Florida Keys judge has denied a murder suspect’s plea for a bond after a 2 1/25-hour hearing in which prosecutors detailed their case against the defendant in a case known as the “tree house murder.”
Franklin Tyrone Tucker, 47, of Key West, will remain locked up at the Stock Island Detention Center, where he has been since his arrest in November 2017, despite his lawyers’ argument that without any physical evidence linking him to the murder of Mathew Bonnett, 59, the state’s case is too weak.
Tucker and another local man, Rory Hank Wilson, are charged with first-degree murder for the fatal stabbing of Bonnett, who was attacked as he approached the Stock Island shanty tree house of his neighbor, Paula Belmonte, on Nov. 17, 2017.
Police said Bonnett was checking on his neighbor, who lived in the tree house on the same property at 5650 Laurel Ave. that housed his trailer.
Belamonte was being robbed at knife point by Wilson who sliced her throat, prosecutors say. Police say the robbers were after crack cocaine and cash and two were armed with knives.
Around 8 p.m., as the men walked out of Belmonte’s home, they got into a fight with Bonnett, 59, stabbing him several times. He died later that day.
Prosecutors are relying on the testimony of Wilson and an inmate to link Tucker to the robbery that turned into a killing.
Wilson told police detectives he watched Tucker stab Bonnett, who died from five stab wounds.
When Wilson asked Tucker why he killed Bonnett, Tucker replied, “Had to,” according to detectives.
Also, detectives Monday testified that an inmate who has served time with Tucker said Tucker told him he killed Bonnett.
“It upset him the way Mr. Tucker talked about the murder, that he had zero remorse or guilt,” said Detective Matthew Pitcher of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, referring to the inmate, who defense attorneys called a “jailhouse snitch.”
Tucker told police he had been drinking heavily the day of the killing and did not remember much of the evening.
Judge Mark Jones said Monday prosecutors met their burden of proof after the “Arthur” hearing, which is held to determine whether a defendant can be released on bail before trial.
Defense attorney Robert Hantman, of New York, couldn’t persuade Jones to set a bond for Tucker, whose girlfriend Lauren Jenai — who bills herself as the co-founder of the fitness regimen CrossFit — had offered to put up a $1 million bond for Tucker.
A third man is also charged with the murder.