Verdict reached in Tackaberry case

By Chuck Weber email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - A dramatic murder trial ended Wednesday afternoon with jurors finding a local woman guilty of killing a grandmother and stabbing her grandson.

Update, WED 8:30 PM: It was not apparent, but her lawyer said Rhonda Norman shook and cried after hearing the verdicts: guilty on all counts, including first degree murder and attempted first degree murder.

The victims' family and friends cried and hugged.

Norman admitted to police she recruited a man she didn't even know to get revenge against ex-boyfriend John Tackaberry.

Norman told police, she and accomplice Wes McGee beat and stabbed to death John's mother Jane Tackaberry, and then cut the throat and chest of John's son, 6-year-old Elijah. The boy survived.

When asked about the verdict, Jane's daughter, Stephanie Rinzel, said it was the verdict she wanted, but burst into tears saying, "It's not going to bring my mom back, and it's not going to help Elijah".

John Tackaberry announced in a loud voice outside the courtroom, "Be it known that justice was served finally". Moments later, John was on a stretcher being treated by medics in the courthouse after being overcome with emotion.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both Norman and McGee. Jurors return in August for the sentencing phase of the Norman trial. After hearing testimony, jurors will recommend either the death penalty or life in prison with no parole.

"What they chose to do the air is not good enough for them to breathe," said Rinzel, explaining why she wants the death penalty for both of the accused. I've thought long and hard about it. I think everybody should know if they're going to do that to somebody, they deserve it."

Rhonda Norman's lawyers admitted her involvement in the attack, but tried to convince jurors she was less culpable and should be convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter. Jurors weren't buying it.

At next month's sentencing, Norman's lawyers will push for life in prison. They said they would bring up Norman's troubled childhood and life. Norman's lawyer, Gregg Lerman, said, "Not that you don't punish people, but you don't punish people with the death sentence when they're not products of their own choice".

Update, WED 1 PM: Jurors will begin deliberating soon in the trial of a woman charged with stabbing a little boy and killing his grandmother.

Around noon Wednesday, lawyers wrapped up their closing arguments in the case of Rhonda Norman. She's accused of recruiting a man off the streets and going to the home of her ex-boyfriend, John Tackaberry, to seek revenge.

Norman admitted to police, during a taped interview, she watched her accomplice, Wes McGee, beat and stab to death Jane Tackaberry.

Norman told detectives she then helped pull sleeping 6-year-old Elijah Tackaberry from a bedroom and stabbed him. The boy survived.

Wednesday morning prosecutors showed jurors the knives used in the attack. After that jurors heard the final evidence in the trial, the dramatic 911 call placed by John Tackaberry moments after finding his mother's body. He's understandably hysterical in the recording. While on the phone with operators, John discovers his son is also covered with blood and has been stabbed.

As the 911 call played, John Tackaberry and his sister, Stephanie Rinzel, were so overcome with emotion, they walked out of the courtroom.

Rhonda Norman's lawyers are trying to convince jurors she is not as culpable as McGee and to convict her of the lesser crime of manslaughter instead of first degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both Norman and McGee.

McGee will go on trial later.

Previously: The woman accused of slicing a little boy's throat and killing his grandmother fainted in a West Palm Beach courtroom Tuesday.

Rhonda Norman returned to court after the lunch recess, but her lawyers said she was still dizzy and convinced the judge to call off testimony for the rest of the day.

Before Norman fainted, jurors listened to her taped confession to detectives - a confession that was often tough for victims' family members to hear.

Stephanie Rinzel and John Tackaberry shed tears as they sat in the courtroom. Their mother Jane Tackaberry was beaten and stabbed to death during an attack at Jane's West Palm Beach home in August 2006. John's 6-year-old son Elijah had his throat and chest slashed. The boy survived.

Norman told police in the statement, she wanted revenge against ex-boyfriend John Tackaberry for cheating and breaking off their relationship. "I feel bad, but I just figured all this stuff I went through with John and how he hurt me," Norman told detectives.

Norman said she recruited a man off the streets she didn't know and went to the Tackaberry home where she had lived just weeks before. Norman described the attack on Jane, and then taking the sleeping boy from his room and cutting him.

"You told him to kill her?" asked a detective. "Yeah, 'finish it,'" Norman said she told accomplice Wes McGee. "Because he was like stabbing her, and she was kicking and scratching him."

Why did she take part in the stabbing of Elijah? "Did you do it to torture him?" asked a detective. "No, I did it to spite John," said Norman. "I didn't want him to die, you know. I seen him walking, struggling. After everything that happened, what could I do? I felt bad for the kid, not his mom."

The family had listened to most of Norman's statement before. After hearing it again Tuesday, John remarked, "Just how cold she is when she describes it."

John's sister, Stephanie Rinzel, said after seeing graphic crime scene pictures Monday and hearing the tape Tuesday, she has a hard time believing it really happened. "I still can't believe it," said Rinzel. "I still can't believe this happened to our family, and it breaks my heart." She says she still misses her mother.

Norman's lawyers admit their client was involved in the attack, but they'll try to convince jurors to find her guilty of manslaughter instead of first degree murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The trial is set to resume Wednesday. Accused accomplice Wes McGee will go on trial later.