Man convicted for 2015 robberies, sentencing today

Published 12:04 am Thursday, March 30, 2017

By Cain Madden

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — A Natchez man was convicted Wednesday of two counts of armed robbery for a November 2015 crime.

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Rovontae Jenkins, 23, 118 Ivy Lane, robbed two Natchez men separately at gunpoint within hours of each other.

After approximately 40 minutes deliberating, the jury determined he was guilty.

Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson scheduled sentencing for 10 a.m. today so he could look at Jenkins’ record, if any, in youth court. Jenkins was 21 at the time of the incident.

Assistant District Attorneys Tim Cotton and Debra Blackwell called seven witnesses, including several Natchez police officers, the two victims and Jenkins’ codefendant Jessica Ellis, who was 20 at the time of the incident.

The cases were severed and a trial date for Ellis has not been set.

The first victim Kenneth Green said on the night of Nov. 17, 2015, he received three knocks at the door at his St. Catherine Street apartment, and he answered each time to find a man in a dark hoody.

Each time, Green said, the man either wanted to buy or sell crack cocaine or marijuana, but each time the victim said he did not mess with that stuff and shut the door.

On the fourth knock, Green said he heard a voice say this is Jessica, meaning Ellis. Green said he and Ellis had an on-and-off relationship, so he answered.

When he answered, Green said the man came around Ellis holding the gun and said, “Give it up.” Green said he took give it up to mean money or other items in his room.

Green said he then slammed the door on the man’s hand as the man discharged a firearm. Green said he tried to pin the gun in the door so he could keep an eye on it.

But Green said the two robbers were able to run away and he called the police to report the attempted robbery. A Natchez Police Department investigator testified what appeared to be a bullet hole was found in Green’s ceiling that night.

As police were investigating that crime, another armed robbery call was reported, this time in the early morning hours of Nov. 18, 2015.

The second victim Richard Thomas said he was driving home from a party at his coworker’s house when he received a call from Ellis, who Thomas said had been his friend since high school.

Thomas said Ellis asked if he would drive she and her cousin, Jenkins, home.

Thomas said he picked them up on Abbott Street.

As they were driving, Thomas said he felt something on the back of his head and Jenkins, in the backseat, asked Jenkins to, “Give me everything you got.”

“I turned around to look and see if the gun was real,” Thomas said. “I seen a gun and he told me to turn around and stop looking.

“I asked him not to shoot me.”

Thomas said Jenkins pulled a second gun and put this one on Ellis and asked her to search the floor, where she found Thomas’ .38-caliber pistol, which she gave to Jenkins. Jenkins also asked Ellis to dig through Thomas’ pockets for items, Thomas testified.

After retrieving the pistol, Thomas said Jenkins asked for his debit card. Thomas said his debit card was at his residence.

When he got to Roundale Street, where he lived, Thomas said he saw the light was on at his house, which meant his mother was awake. Thomas said he did not want to take Jenkins where he could get to Thomas’ mother, so he instead went to his cousin’s house.

Thomas said he was able to get into his cousin’s house without Jenkins and at that point he called the police.

Thomas told jurors the robbers took his gun, wallet containing $4, cell phone and watch, which he was wearing in the court room.

Thomas testified he did believe the two were acting together, which Jenkins’ defense attorney Stanley Merritt asked.

Thomas said every item was returned to him except the pistol.

Merritt said Thomas did not report a pistol missing following the crime, but Thomas said he wrote the statement in a hurry.

Natchez Police Officer Nikita Stone said driving away from the second victim’s residence he found Jenkins and Ellis,.

Stone testified Jenkins had his hands in his coat pocket like he was pointing two guns at him. Stone said after asking Jenkins several times to take his hands out of his pocket and Jenkins not complying, Stone pulled his service weapon and Jenkins ran.

Officers were able to capture Ellis on scene, and in searching her, she allegedly had Thomas’s CCA jacket, his wallet, watch and cell phone on her.

Cotton said he believed the state put the dotted lines together for the jury to be able to return two guilty verdicts.

“They didn’t deserve to have a gun put to their heads and have their lives threatened,” Cotton said. “You will go back in that room… And you will come back and you will tell Mr. Jenkins that he is guilty of robbing at gunpoint not only Kenneth Green but also Richard Thomas.”