Fmr. Asst. Principal Charged With Teacher’s Murder; Faces Death Sentence in Florida

Photo credits: NBC 6 South Florida/Miami-Dade County Jail

Last week, a Grand Jury in Miami-Dade County, Florida indicted a former assistant principal on a capital murder charge.

According to the Bradenton Herald, Ernest J. Roberts (pictured left) was originally charged with murder in the second degree earlier this month. However, after Roberts’ case was handed over to a Grand Jury, the former public school administrator was subsequently charged with first-degree murder.

Roberts (formerly the assistant principal at North Miami-Dade’s Norland High School) is accused of murdering Kameela Russell (pictured right). Russell was a former test proctor and teacher at Norland High School. The Floridian educator went missing on May 15 after she did not show up to drive her daughter home that day.

Before her mother’s disappearance, Russell’s daughter was being looked after at a relative’s home in Miami Gardens. Days later, Russell’s lifeless body was found disposed of in a canal not far from her residence. A severe beating was classified as the official cause of death.

This is a particularly tragic case. These two former public school employees were childhood friends.

Roberts was even made godfather of Russell’s children. An arraignment hearing for Roberts is scheduled for July 23. This will be the first court proceeding, which involves the upgraded charges recently handed down by a Grand Jury in Miami-Dade County. The Herald’s July 18 report stated that Roberts is still incarcerated. He is expected to enter a plea of not guilty.

The newly acquired first-degree murder charge in Roberts’ indictment makes him eligible for the death penalty under the Florida statute. The final decision on pursuing execution will rest on the legal authority of the Miami-Dade County Prosecutor’s Office. Roberts’ attorney is Ron Vereen.

Vereen previously spoke to reporters at an earlier court hearing, which was scheduled in this high-profile case.

“There shouldn’t be a rush to judgment. My client is being convicted in the court of public opinion, and they don’t know the facts of the case. Let justice run its course. My client is innocent until proven guilty,” Vereen said.

Since Roberts was arrested and jailed on June 14, law enforcement officials in this case have presented evidence that is overwhelming.

Police detectives in Miami Gardens claim that an Amazon box found in Roberts’ bedroom contained a trace of Russell’s blood. The box was cleaned with bleach in an attempt to remove physical evidence. Roberts is also seen on a surveillance video placing Russell’s body into the trunk of his car and driving away, according to his arrest warrant.

Police officials who conducted this investigation also allege that Roberts attempted to get a school janitor involved to assist in the disposal of the car, which was used to transport Russell’s body. A note written by Roberts to the janitor was reportedly found in a cabinet at the Linda Lentin K-8 Center in North Miami.

“Do you know anyone that can chop up a car? If so or make it ‘disappear’ take these keys. Its behind the speedway racetrack on 441 by County line. Friends are gone and need it to disappear. If not leave it + I’ll work it out later. THROW THIS NOTE AWAY!” the note reads, according to the arrest warrant.

More details in this case will be reported after Roberts’ next arraignment hearing, which is scheduled  for July 23. He is being held in the Miami-Dade County Detention Center without bond.