Shooting suspect granted continuance

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The sentencing of one of five men charged in connection with a fatal shooting during a home invasion in 2008 was postponed Monday.

Michael J. Jaco, 18, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery on April 3. In a plea agreement with the Boone County prosecuting attorney, he agreed to testify in the trials of two other men charged in the case in exchange for having charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action dropped.

Jaco was originally charged with second-degree murder, first-degree murder and armed criminal action in connection with the murder of Nathaniel Bentley, 22, early on the morning of June 10, 2008, at Bentley's home at 3610 Pimlico Drive in southeastern Columbia. Jaco was indicted in the case along with four other Boone County men.

At a sentencing hearing Monday, Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane granted Jaco a continuance until June 20. That gives Jaco time to testify in the trials of Malcolm A. Washington and Damon A. Williams, whose trials are scheduled for June 20 and July 28, respectively. He might also choose to testify against Denzell Smith, 18, whose trial date has not been set.

Williams, the suspected shooter in the incident, was originally charged with first-degree murder, but the charge was later reduced to second-degree murder.

Jaco's attorney, Stephen Wyse, said if Jaco testifies, his maximum sentence could be 20 years, or as low as 10 years.

Two other suspects in the killing have accepted plea agreements for lesser charges. Quillan Jacobs, 17, and Smith pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and will have second-degree murder, first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges dropped if they testify in Williams' and Washington's trials.

During the incident, Columbia’s first homicide of 2008, five men arrived at Bentley’s home in the Bearfield subdivision early that morning and three of the men entered Bentley’s home while two others waited outside in a car.

Witnesses at the scene said the three men who entered the house demanded cash and drugs and that one of the men entered an upstairs bedroom where Bentley was sleeping.

The witnesses said they heard a gunshot, and the three men left with an Xbox game system, two purses and a cell phone.

Using a GPS tracking system, investigators were able to trace the cell phone, which had been abandoned near Route WW and Rolling Hills Road. The weapon used in the shooting, a .380 caliber semi-automatic handgun, was found close by.

According to probable cause statements, the pistol was stolen from a home invasion a few days prior to the homicide. Jaco also was considered a suspect in the home invasion.

Smith was arrested the day after the shooting and made statements incriminating Jaco, Jacobs, Washington and Williams.


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