Roni Robinson was elated.
She had just received a voicemail saying a man on trial in two slayings had been found guilty in the 2015 fatal shooting of her daughter DePrecia Neelon.
Then she turned on the news and saw reports that Marcus Short was found guilty in the killing that occurred two days after her daughter was slain, but acquitted for her daughter’s death.
She wasn’t alone in her confusion in the moments after the Douglas County clerk read the jury’s verdict.
While it was clear that the jury had found Short guilty of one murder but not guilty of the other, court observers struggled to understand which was which. Even homicide detectives and attorneys were initially confused.
Finally, officials confirmed: the jury convicted Short of Garion Johnson’s fatal shooting but found him not guilty in Neelon’s killing. Jurors deliberated about 19 hours over three days.
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Although Short was acquitted in Neelon’s death, the first-degree murder conviction in Johnson’s slaying will guarantee that he spends the rest of his life in prison.
Short, 29, was also found guilty of three weapons charges, which carry a maximum of 150 years in prison.
Knowing that, Robinson felt better.
“I’m cool with that,” she said. “He’ll never be out to hurt anyone else’s family. It’s all good.”
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine apologized for the incorrect information provided in the phone call to Robinson by a Victim Assistance Program worker. Kleine left a long voicemail with Robinson correcting the mistake.
Soon after the verdict, Prosecutor Mike Jensen was able to reach another family member and relay the correct information.
Neelon, 23, was killed on Aug. 6, 2015, after a fire was started at the back door of her home near 20th and Pinkney Streets. When Neelon went out to pull her 4-year-old daughter away from the door and douse the flames, she was shot seven times.
Authorities said they found a merchandise tag with Short’s fingerprint in an alleyway near Neelon’s home. A witness described a person who looked like Short at the scene.
Johnson, 19, was killed two days later outside his girlfriend’s house on Fontenelle Boulevard, northeast of 42nd and Fort Streets.
Officers searched Short’s home hours after Johnson’s slaying. They had received tips, including witness statements, that a white Monte Carlo was seen leaving the scene.
They found a car matching that description at the house, a .45 Glock, a .357 Smith & Wesson and other evidence, including two black hoodies and muddy shoes.
Prosecutors said the Glock was used in the Neelon homicide and the Smith & Wesson was used in the Johnson killing.
Gary Johnson, Garion Johnson’s father, said he believed justice was served, but the guilty verdict didn’t make him feel better.
“That’s not going to bring (my son) back, but I do think (Short) got what he deserved,” Johnson said. “They say when the trial’s over, you have closure, I don’t feel like that. I don’t feel like I’m relieved from this pain.”
Another man, Preston Pope, already has been convicted and sentenced to life in both killings. A third man, Shadow Harlan, 18, is awaiting trial on a murder charge and a gun charge in connection with Neelon’s death.
Short’s trial lasted a month. Jurors were presented with more than 1,000 pieces of evidence and heard from roughly 75 witnesses.
Jensen, who prosecuted the case with Sean Lavery, said he was disappointed with the split verdict but respected the jury’s decision.
He acknowledged that they had a tough battle with Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley and his team.
“Douglas County has a fantastic public defender,” Jensen said. “It’s a circumstantial case. With circumstantial cases, he’s able to point out times where we’re drawing a logical conclusion, and (say), ‘Hey, maybe you can’t make that logical conclusion,’ which is what a good defense attorney does.”
It was the second attempt at the trial.
The first one ended in a mistrial in May because of a scheme to bribe a juror through a Facebook friend request purportedly from Short or his supporters.
A 19-year-old juror saw Short’s photo on the Facebook page. He reported the strange friend request to jurors and court staff, which launched an investigation and led to the mistrial.
Short and two others are awaiting trial on jury- and evidence-tampering charges, though Judge Horacio Wheelock had decided that jurors in the just-completed trial weren’t to be told about the bribery scheme.
A scuffle at the jail the night before the verdict added more charges to Short’s rap sheet.
As Douglas County deputies were taking off Short’s handcuffs, he resisted commands and got into a struggle with authorities, law enforcement officials said.
A deputy and a Nebraska state trooper suffered cuts and bruises but weren’t seriously injured.
Short has been booked on two counts of assault of an officer, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer.
A law enforcement official said additional deputies were on duty in the courtroom Thursday to monitor Short.
However, Short didn’t resist in court. He calmly walked with deputies after being handcuffed and didn’t say anything.
It appeared that no one from his family and no friends were there to hear the verdict.
Robinson said that, ultimately, Short knows what he did.
“I don’t get how you can just kill people and go to bed or go to a party and hang out like it’s nothing. It’s something,” she said. “If you would have known my daughter, you would have loved my daughter. She was just a beautiful person inside and out.”