The Hill children belonged to the home owner, Bridget Gray’s boyfriend,Willie Hill.
Bannister was dating victim Jocalyn Gray and he was the father of one of her three children. Those were not the children who were killed.
Prosecutors described Bannister as someone who was cold and calculated and who lured Jocalyn Gray to her death.
A specially formed task force cracked the case using cellphone records and a tipster who said Bannister had admitted to the crimes.
Early Thursday morning, that tipster was outfitted with recording equipment and the task force secretly recorded a conversation with Bannister.
He said he had smoked synthetic marijuana laced with cocaine, according to an arrest affidavit. He talked about how his girlfriend had been his world.
“I just took my world,” he said.
[L-R] Upper: Bridget Gray, Jocalyn Gray. Lower: CorDarrian Hill and CorDerica Hill.
Ramona Hill and other family members are overcome with emotion a s James Bannister id found guilty of all counts in Ocala, Fla on Nov 8
Responding Fire and Rescue service members found Bannister outside the burning home in the early hours of Aug. 5, 2011 when the bodies were discovered. Wearing a T-shirt, jeans, he paced up and down the street crying and holding his head. He talked to anyone who would listen.
He was audacious enough to be sitting in a living room among members of the Gray family talking with them four days later, only to be arrested as the prime suspect on the sixth day.
Cellphone records place Bannister in the area of the crime scene during the time of the murders. Multiple calls from his phone to Jocalyn Gray’s after the murders coupled with a text beforehand telling her he was home when he wasn’t, prosecutors argued, showed his attempt to develop an alibi.
Bannister was arrested on Aug 11, 2011
Bannister burned down Willie Hill’s home on Aug 5, 2011 to cover the murders
He also asked the informant to be his alibi and look into whether his location could be tracked through cellphone records.
Bannister’s defense attempted to persuade the jury that Bannister wasn’t in control of his actions that night due to drug use – On all the recorded interviews and conversations entered into evidence, Bannister never admits to the murders. He does discuss what he would do if he wasn’t arrested for them.
“I owe it to my baby,” he told the informant. “I owe it to my baby to give back … I owe her my life .. I owe the world, man.”
The penalty phase of Bannister’s trial, begins Monday. The same jury is tasked with deciding unanimously, that Bannister should be sentenced to death, else spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole.
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