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Two involved in 2016 death of Cooley Lounge bartender found guilty of aggravated murder

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Posted at 7:18 PM, Jul 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-03 19:18:59-04

Two people accused of slaying a popular Cleveland bartender in 2016 were found guilty of 22 charges by a jury, including aggravated murder.

Anita Hollins and Nigel Brunson were found guilty of the charges and were part of a group of five people involved in the deadly robbery at Cooley Lounge on W. 130th Street on Oct. 24, 2016.

According to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley, Hollins, 44, held a grudge over an altercation that happened at the bar in August 2016. The customers involved in that altercation were charged, but later acquitted, according to the prosecutor's office.

Dana Thomas, 30, Brunson, 20, and Dwayne Sims, 21, entered the bar and sat down for a drink on the day of the deadly robbery. After a few minutes, they ordered everyone inside to get on the ground and robbed the customers of their purses, wallets and cell phones, according to the prosecutor's office.

Officials said Thomas ordered west side bartender Melissa "Missy" Brinker, 44, into the back office and shot her once. Brunson went into the back room to check on her. When he noticed she was still alive, he shot her point blank and killed her, authorities said.

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Before the four defendants presented their case to the jury, a fifth defendant pleaded guilty to robbery and served as a witness during the trial, the prosecutor's office said. After the trial began, Sims admitted to robbing the customers and pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and kidnapping, according to officials. Authorities said Thomas elected to have his case tried before the judge. The judge will announce her verdict at a later date.

The jury found Brunson and Hollins guilty of 22 charges, including aggravated murder, murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated burglary and felonious assault. Both face a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Their sentencing dates have not been scheduled.