Death penalty no longer an option in 2019 triple homicide case, trial to start in June

May 23, 2024 | 12:13 am

Updated May 23, 2024 | 1:03 am

The death penalty is no longer on the table for Cylar Shemwell, who is scheduled to go to trial next month for his alleged role in a 2019 triple homicide on Audubon Avenue.

Shemwell is facing three counts of murder for the shooting deaths of Robert D. Smith Jr., 35; Jay Michael Sowders, 43; and Christopher Carie, 18. He also faces a first-degree assault charge because a fourth person, Carman Vanegas, who was 35 at the time, was also shot in the head but survived.

On May 8, 2024, Arnett Baines pleaded guilty to those charges by accepting an agreement that included a sentence of 25 years to life without parole. His final hearing is scheduled for May 23.

According to court documents, Shemwell was not the shooter but was charged for his alleged role in the incident. Jury selection for Shemwell’s trial is set to begin June 3 and is expected to take about 2 weeks.

A previous motion by the defense to exclude the death penalty failed, but it was filed before Baines’ plea agreement. Shemwell’s counsel then renewed their effort to remove the death penalty, and Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Van Meter on Wednesday decided on a lesser penalty to recommend if Shemwell is found guilty.

Van Meter said the new recommended sentence options for a guilty verdict in each murder count will be:

  • Imprisonment for life without the benefit of probation and parole
  • Imprisonment for life without the benefit of probation or parole until the defendant has served at least 25 years
  • Life in prison for 20 to 50 years

In their motion, the defense team said that in light of Baines’ plea agreement, “we must ask the Court to review this matter in the interest of fairness, equity and justice, and pursuant to the 8th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, in order not to permit a cruel and unusual punishment of a non-shooter.”

A final hearing before the trial is scheduled for May 30.

May 23, 2024 | 12:13 am

Share this Article

Other articles you may like