Death Penalty Verdict in Valero Killings | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Death Penalty Verdict in Valero Killings

Jury deliberated for two days on sentence in case

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    A Tarrant Count jury on Friday recommended the death penalty for the man convicted of killing two men during a convenience store robbery in 2010.

    Kwame Rockwell, 34, was convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Daniel Rojas, a 23-year-old store clerk, and 70-year-old Jerry Burnett, a Mrs. Baird's deliveryman.

    The jury deliberated for more than 13 hours over two days before sentencing Rockwell to death. Some of the jurors were in tears as the death sentence was read.

    Rockwell showed no obvious emotion as he listened to the jury's decision.

    "I think there was some contrast drawn," prosecutor Sean Colston said. "When you have victims who are just going about their business, doing what they're supposed to, and they're brutally murdered in this fashion, I think that has an effect on the jury."

    The families of Rojas and Burnett said after the sentencing that justice was served.

    "We just miss him terribly," said Burnett's wife, Sue. "I miss him as a husband and as a friend. We just miss him."

    Rojas' mother remembered him as a good son and a good brother. She said he had a good heart.

    The two families said the tragedy has united them.

    "You know, this was just uncalled for, so we're glad to put this part behind us and go on, but we are going to stay close," said Janice Miller, Burnett's sister.

    Miller said she wishes she knew why her brother was killed.

    "Each day as I live, I'll always want to know why," she said.

    Rockwell found guilty last week

    Prosecutors said Rockwell and two other men entered a Valero station on Mansfield Highway on March 23, 2010, robbed the check-cashing business and shot and killed a Rojas and Burnett.

    Jurors were shown several clips from the store's 12 surveillance cameras. The video shows three masked men entering the store and Rojas complying with their demands, giving them the money and holding up his hands.

    Part of the video was released by Fort Worth police back in 2010. But jurors saw a dramatic part of video that was not publicly released that shows Rojas on the floor crying before he was shot in the head. Members of his family wept in court while the video played.

    During the murder trial, jurors also heard testimony from a key prosecution witness -- Chance Smith, a co-defendant who discussed what led up to the crime.

    Smith took a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. Smith, who said he served as the lookout, agreed to serve 20 years for pleading guilty to the lesser charges of aggravated robbery.

    He said he worked at Rockwell's car dealership across the street from the Valero in early 2010. He said Blackwell was struggling financially.

    Smith testified that after he cashed his IRS check at the check-cashing business in the store, a sum totaling around $5,000, Blackwell and three other men joked about robbing the business while drinking beer in the car dealership's garage.

    Smith said at first they were just jokes, but the jokes turned more serious. He testified that the group originally planned on robbing the store's owner in his car before he left for the bank.

    The jury deliberated for almost three hours before handing down the guilty verdict last week. The trial lasted about two weeks.

    Randy Seibel, of Granbury, and Tyrone Pierre Thomas, of Fort Worth, await trial.

    Chris Van Horne, Elvira Sakmari, Justin Hinton and Scott Gordon contributed to this report.

    We originally reported the owner of the business name as Blackwell, we regret the error.