No verdict on manslaughter charge in standoff trial

Deanna De Jesus convicted of child neglect

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Jurors were unable to agree on a verdict on the manslaughter charge a woman faced after she survived a Deerfield Beach standoff, during which, police say, her husband shot and killed a man, stabbed her and two of her sons and then killed himself.

Five hours after beginning deliberators, jurors were deadlocked on the aggravated manslaughter charge that Deanna De Jesus, 38, faced in connection with the Feb. 9 incident at the Highland Woods RV Park. However, they convicted De Jesus on the child neglect charge on Monday afternoon.

"Count two, neglect of a child, is the exact same legal standard -- culpable negligence -- not protecting her son, the one that survived, the 7 year old," said prosecutor Gregg Rossman. "The manslaughter was the same thing, same legal standard, it's just, the injury to the victim."

After being put into handcuffs and looking at her family, De Jesus burst into tears.

The Broward Sheriff's Office said De Jesus did nothing during the Feb. 9 standoff to stop her husband -- who investigators said had already gunned down Ovila Plante, 76, at his RV -- when he stabbed Jeshia, their 9-year-old son, and Samson, their 8-year-old son, who was 7 at the time. According to investigators, William De Jesus brought his family to South Florida from their home in Port Orange to buy drugs that day.

Investigators said Deanna De Jesus only protested when her husband stabbed her.

"He died a horrific death, but it would be wrong for you to go back and say because he died a horrific death, she must pay," Rossman said during close arguments earlier in the day. "Deanna De Jesus sits here now, still alive. Deanna fought back for herself only, not for Jeshia, and not for Samson."

The state contended that if Deanna De Jesus had done more to protect her son, he might still be alive. BSO said that for several hours after she realized Samson De Jesus was still alive, Deanna De Jesus failed to call for help, although SWAT team members were surrounding the RV. Last week, jurors heard an audio recording of Samson's interview with detectives following the incident.

Five hours after the incident began, the SWAT team went into the RV and found that William De Jesus and the couple's nine-year-old son were dead, and Deanna De Jesus and the seven-year-old son were critically wounded, BSO said.

Defense attorneys argued that Deanna De Jesus was nothing more than a victim in the ordeal, adding that she was defenseless against her husband, who was armed, and physically incapable of helping her children after William De Jesus turned the knife on her.

"Nobody could have foreseen what this guy was doing. You know, he was hallucinating, he was getting up on oxycodone, he was on cocaine. The toxicologist said he had all these drugs in his system and he basically knocked everybody in this motor home, and he just -- it was a massacre," said Moons.

The state plans on retrying De Jesus unless a plea agreement is made.