A man convicted of executing a 17-year-old he manipulated into robbing a bank last year, denied taking part in her murder when he spoke to her family at his sentencing on Thursday.
According to prosecutors, Keichaun Newell, 20, and his co-conspirator, Jeffrey Doss, 23, recruited 17-year-old Breanna Nicole Fluitt to participate in a bank robbery on Aug. 15, 2016 . Several days later, Newell shot her five times and left her dead on the side of a road in East Cleveland.
Prosecutors said Newell killed her because he was afraid he would be implicated in the bank robbery after surveillance footage was released.
Before Newell was sentenced, Christina Stribling, the mother of the 17-year-old, addressed the judge about the anger she has harbored for the defendant and talked about the anguish it has caused having to see him while working as a county corrections officer.
"I've seen the defendant, and I'm sure he's seen me as well. And in my thoughts of being a corrections officer, he lives as though this is just a bump in the road for him," she said. "He acts nonchalant, he doesn't care."
Stribling said she has relied on the sheriff's department and fellow officers as a source of strength, helping her to ease the burden and work through her anger.
"I know I'm not dealing with this alone. They shoulder most of my anger towards him," she said.
Stribling told the judge she was never a hateful person before but now everything has changed.
"I don't know how to feel towards him but hatred. I didn't know what it was to hate until I lost my child," she said.
In the year since the death of her child, Stribling said she is has grown fearful for her other children.
"I sleep with my gun next to me. Every sound, every noise, flicker of light, shadows, it keeps me up most nights because I'm afraid of what could potentially happen to me and my other children in my own home."
Before Newell took the stand, his attorneys said Newell's statement "precludes things at this point that might give comfort to the family," citing certain legal restrictions about what he was allowed to say since his client plans on filing an appeal.
When Newell finally spoke, he apologized for the family losing their child, but didn't accept responsibility for her death.
"I do want the family to know I send them my deep apologies for what happened to their loved one and I want to send them my condolences and let them know I really didn't do this and one day I hope to prove that," Newell said.
Judge Sherrie Miday said that given the opportunity, Newell would commit the same crime again in order to protect himself.
"You manipulated Breanna," she said. "Took advantage of her and snuffed out her life when it was convenient for you. You executed her on a dark sketchy street and then abandoned her lifeless body."
Newall was previously found guilty of aggravated murder, felonious assault, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and theft.
Miday sentenced Newell to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 49 years.
A jury trial is scheduled to begin for Doss on Feb. 5, 2018.