Heather Beato

Longtime Assistant State Attorney appointed to Circuit bench

State Attorney Brian Haas congratulates Assistant State Attorney Heather Beato on her appointment to the 10th Judicial Circuit bench. ASA Beato, a prosecutor in the Sebring office, has been with the State Attorney’s Office since graduating from the Florida State University College of Law in 2002.

Heather Beato

Heather Beato


Andre Warner

Auburndale man convicted of fatally shooting man during home invasion

Andre Warner

Andre Warner

Assistant State Attorney Kristie Ducharme secured a conviction in March when jurors found a 30-year-old Auburndale man guilty of fatally shooting a man during a home invasion robbery.

Andre Warner, one of four co-defendants in the case, now faces the death penalty for shooting and killing Adam Hilarie in 2016.

A new 12-person jury will be chosen in the coming months to decide whether to recommend a death sentence for Warner. Circuit Judge Jalal Harb dismissed the initial jury because of delays due to the coronavirus.  Harb will make the final decision if jurors recommend Warner be sentenced to death.

After a three-week trial, jurors deliberated three hours before reaching a guilty verdict. Warner was convicted of first degree murder, robbery with a firearm, burglary to a dwelling with a weapon, and conspiracy armed robbery with a firearm.

Ducharme said in her closing arguments that jurors had received substantial evidence to convict Warner.

“Ask yourself one question: if you have any reasonable doubt in your minds that Andre Warner is not the one responsible for robbing and murder Adam,” Ducharme said. “I’m confident based on the evidence that the answer to that question is no.”

The trial received national attention.

The victim met Hailey Bustos through a dating website, then went on a date with her on Aug. 19, 2016. After their date, Bustos, Warner and other co-defendants went to the victim’s apartment to rob him. During testimony, Bustos said Warner fired a single gunshot into the back of the victim’s head.

Ducharme said the victim, the father of a 5-year-old girl, begged for his life because he had a daughter.

“The fear [he] must have felt in that moment,” Ducharme said. Ducharme had said that when Warner and co-defendants returned to the car, they were laughing that the victim had begged for his life.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Ducharme and the Auburndale Police Department for their work on the case.



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State Attorney Brian Haas

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Jesse Banks

Lakeland man convicted of fatal 2017 stabbing

A Lakeland man was convicted in March of fatally stabbing his friend in the neck during an argument in 2017.

Jesse Banks

Jesse Banks

Jesse Banks Jr., 69, faces up to life in prison. Jurors deliberated for 3 ½-hours before finding him guilty of second degree murder with a weapon.

A sentencing date has been scheduled for May 29.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter prosecuted the case.

During closing arguments, Nutter told jurors that Banks and Tommy Lee Engram were longtime friends, but had been in a spat on May 4 when Banks pulled a knife and stabbed Engram in the neck.

Engram, who had accused Banks of theft, was unarmed and made no attempt to defend himself.

“This was not an accident or an act of self-defense,” Nutter said.

Witnesses testified during the trial that they saw Banks holding a knife standing over Engram’s body after the stabbing.

Nutter said the accusations of theft became too much for Banks.

“He became tired of being pestered,” Nutter said. “He took matters into his own hands and silenced Tommy forever,” Nutter said.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter and the Lakeland Police Department for their work on the case.


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