When judge asks, Nikko Jenkins says ‘I killed them’

Velita Glasgow, center, leans on supporters after Nikko Jenkins entered no-contest pleas to all charges, including the murder of her son Curtis Bradford, on Wednesday.

Nikko Jenkins spoke in tongues, or some language of his supposed serpent god. He smirked and laughed briefly as prosecutors recounted details of his victims' deaths.

He pleaded guilty, then refused to accept prosecutors' accounts of the shootings. He then pleaded no contest — and a judge found him guilty.

He blamed the Nebraska prison system for the deaths of the four Omahans, for releasing him despite his purported schizophrenia.

He first said he wanted to go to death row. He then asked Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine to take the death penalty off the table.

Wednesday's drama was one of the last episodes of what courthouse officials have, with an eye roll, dubbed the “Nikko Show.”

In the end, after all the bluster and bravado — and a recent hearing at which Jenkins actually howled on his way out of the courtroom — this fact stood, cold and uncontradicted:

Nikko Jenkins executed four Omahans in a wicked, 10-day spree in August.

Judge Peter Bataillon found Jenkins:

» Guilty of the Aug. 11 deaths of Jorge Cajiga-Ruiz and Juan Uribe-Pena. The two men had been lured to Spring Lake Park on the pretense of receiving sex acts from two of Jenkins' female relatives. Jenkins shot both men in the head. Cajiga-Ruiz had been covering his face when he was shot — the bullet piercing his hand and exiting his brain.

» Guilty of the Aug. 19 death of the man Jenkins once described as “my little homie” — Curtis Bradford, once Jenkins' fellow prisoner. Jenkins lured Bradford to the area of 18th and Clark Streets on the pretense that they would “do a lick,” or commit a robbery. After his sister, Erica, shot Bradford, Jenkins executed him, telling her she didn't do it right, Kleine said.

» Guilty of the Aug. 21 death of Andrea Kruger, a mother of three who was driving home from her job at a bar to tend to a sick child. Jenkins and three relatives scouted out Kruger — looking for an SUV to steal so they could rob people in town for the Lil Wayne concert, Kleine said. They pulled in front of Kruger at a stop sign at 168th and Fort Streets — blocking her way so they could jump her. Jenkins pulled Kruger out of the driver's side and shot her in the head, neck and back — killing her in the middle of the road. He then took off in her SUV, Kleine said.

Jenkins, 27, seemed most upset by the contention that Kruger was killed during a robbery.

He pointed out that he had a history of successful carjackings in which he didn't kill — including two that led to his decadelong prison term. He also pointed out that he didn't take any of the cash in Kruger's purse.

He argued that he wouldn't hurt a woman — unless “Ahpophis” commanded him to.

In long, at times indecipherable dialogue, Jenkins insisted that the killings of Kruger and the others were human sacrifices, that he was merely the vessel that carried out the commands of Ahpophis, his serpent god.

“You can ask any woman in north Omaha, 'Have I ever raised a hand at them?' I haven't,” he said.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said Omaha police and Douglas County sheriff's deputies collected ample evidence of Jenkins' guilt.

And, he said, he had no doubt that Jenkins' conviction will stick, despite a bizarre day that included a rare, in-chambers meeting between the judge and Jenkins, absent prosecutors. And despite the judge reversing course Wednesday on his earlier insistence that Jenkins plead guilty or go to trial.

Bataillon abandoned that stance after Jenkins claimed he couldn't remember shooting each of his victims.

Contrary to previous accounts, Kleine said the judge had every right to accept a no-contest plea in a death-penalty case. Kleine said there have been a handful of first-degree murder cases in which the defendant pleaded no contest. At least one of those originally was a death-penalty case: the conviction of Richard Holtan for the 1974 murder of Omaha bartender Lawrence Loder.

Beyond that, Kleine and other attorneys pointed out how difficult it is for a defendant to undo a plea. Before they enter a plea, judges exhaustively inform defendants of all the rights they're giving up in entering it.

Bataillon did just that Wednesday — all but urging Jenkins to reconsider his decision to plead. Bataillon disclosed a rare move: that he met in chambers with Jenkins, with Jenkins' advisory attorneys present, to answer his questions.

In the 45-minute delay before the plea hearing began, Jenkins aired various complaints about prosecutors, police and jailers, Bataillon said.

“Some of these complaints can be resolved by this court,” Bataillon said. “However, I had advised if he pleads guilty, he is waiving all these concerns and complaints.”

Jenkins told the judge he felt he had “no other choice but to plead” because his “constitutional rights and human rights are not being recognized.”

Bataillon repeatedly told Jenkins that he had other choices. Go to trial, plead not guilty, or plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

“The main thing is, I'm ready to go where I'm going to go,” Jenkins told the judge. “I'm not trying to sit in Douglas County Jail. I don't want to be sitting here going through this little dumb litigation bullshit ... in this jurisdiction.”

Jenkins' pleas were anything but the heartfelt declaration Jenkins vowed to make last fall, when he said he wanted to spare the victims' families a trial where they would have to see grisly crime-scene photos of their loved ones.

Jenkins was characteristically cold during the hearing — laughing briefly and incredulously as Kleine detailed the victims' deaths.

In the death of Cajiga-Ruiz and Uribe-Pena, Jenkins emerged from a wooded area to execute both men. He then turned their pockets inside out as he stripped them of cash.

In Bradford's death, Kleine described how Jenkins corrected his sister, Erica, on the proper way to execute someone. At that, Jenkins smirked.

“You lying,” Jenkins shot at Kleine. “Dude is crazy.”

When Kleine described four shots to Kruger, Jenkins piped up.

“Where was the gunshot wound — to the head?” Jenkins asked the judge. “I didn't hear him.”

“To the head,” Bataillon said.

Jenkins claimed to have not remembered any of the killings.

Bradford's execution was “most puzzling,” he said, because Bradford “was my homie.”

Jenkins said he also never would have knowingly killed Kruger.

“In my right state of mind, I would never hurt a woman like that,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins didn't bring up voices until the end of the hearing, when Judge Bataillon asked him, point blank, if he had killed each victim. He claimed that “command voices” clouded his memory of the killings. He said he remembered that the voices matched phrases that are tattooed on his face.

“Kill them, destroy them, attack them,” he said, translating the words. “I was alone. And weapons. And the demons and Ahpophis and Lucifer.

“They were attempting to kill me. So I killed them under orders of Ahpophis.”

At that point, two Omaha police detectives in the front row rolled their eyes.

None of Jenkins' accomplices relayed any accounts of him claiming to have heard any voices or of him speaking in tongues at the crime scenes, Kleine noted.

As Kleine recounted the deaths, Bradford's mother, Velita Glasgow, rushed out of the courtroom crying.

Kruger's husband, Michael-Ryan Kruger, sat a couple of seats down from Bradford's mother, his brow furrowed as his wife's death was recounted. Kruger had cupped Glasgow's hand as he shuffled past her on the way into the courtroom.

After the plea, Glasgow's family piled out of the courtroom crying and saying, “He's guilty, baby.''

Glasgow said the death-penalty hearing will be just as tough as Wednesday's hearing. No date has been set, but it's expected to take place this summer.

“I am ready for this next stage,'' she said. “This is too hard for me. This is too hard for my family.

“I am ready for all parties to have closure. We need closure now.''

Though relatives of Cajiga-Ruiz and Uribe-Pena have kept tabs on the case, they have not attended recent hearings.

Bradford's and Kruger's families met with homicide detectives after the hearing. Kruger's mother, Teri Roberts, thanked investigators for their work.

“I'm glad this part is over,” Roberts said.

Jenkins doesn't think it's over. He was busy serving attorneys with court documents related to his lawsuit over his civil rights complaints.

As for the death-penalty hearing, he dismissively asked the judge if he would notify him of the verdict by mail.

“I would like to waive my presence and be notified through letter,” Jenkins said.

In the next breath, he asked Kleine to consider “taking the death penalty off the table.”

Jenkins noted that he had written letters before his release asking a judge, prosecutors, even a state senator to get him help before his prison release.

With the existence of those letters — which have been reported previously in The World-Herald — Jenkins suggested that prosecutors would be better off if they didn't pursue the death penalty.

Bataillon told Jenkins to call a press conference if he wanted to air those matters. The judge indicated that he is “strongly considering appointing an attorney” to represent Jenkins in the death-penalty hearing.

Jenkins leaned back in his chair, smirking.

“That's only if I care about it,” he scoffed.

World-Herald staff writer Alissa Skelton contributed to this report.

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