Prosecutors in Miami-Dade County, Florida said they are seeking the death penalty against a former school administrator in the death of a beloved teacher.
An arraignment hearing for Ernest J. Roberts (pictured right) was held this past Tuesday (July 23). Roberts was recently indicted for first-degree murder in the death of Kameela Russell (pictured, upper left corner). Russell formerly worked at Norland High School in North Miami as a teacher and test proctor.
Roberts was formerly the assistant principal at Norland High. The murder victim and defendant in this case were very familiar with one another. Though familiarity between Roberts and Russell has been established, a motive for murder has not yet been revealed in this case.
“Motive is not the necessary element of a crime. But of course, we all want to know what led to this. We know the family is going to have those kinds of questions,” said Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the State’s Attorney for Miami-Dade County.
As expected, Roberts entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment hearing earlier this week. His original charge of second-degree murder was recently upgraded after this case was handed over to a Grand Jury.
As more facts came to light about Russell’s disappearance, murder, and cause of death, other aggravating factors have been determined.
After Tuesday’s arraignment hearing, the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney stated that her office is still pursuing the death penalty in this case. First-degree murder is punishable by death under Florida law when other aggravating factors about a killing are proven, such as premeditation, or if the murder is committed in commission with another serious felony.
Russell’s official cause of death was found to be blunt force trauma to both sides of her head. Roberts remains jailed in the Miami-Dade County Detention Center. He is being held without bond.
According to CBS Miami, a trial date in this case has been set for October.