Jury begins deliberations in death of Bethel woman in Bridgeport
A jury Monday began deliberating the fate of Brandon Roberts, who is accused of killing a Bethel woman he met on a dating app. Emily Todd, 25, was found face down in the sand by the public boat launch in Bridgeport in December 2018.
The jury got the case around 2:15 p.m. following closing arguments from both sides. There is no dispute that Roberts shot and killed Todd. At issue is why he did so and his state of mind at the time. If the defense can prove extreme emotional disturbance, Roberts would be convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.
"It's a simple story. The defendant was done with Emily Todd but wanted the last of her money," State's Attorney Joseph Corradino said in court Monday morning. "He killed her to keep her from calling the police, and he stole her ATM card and drove off in her car to take her last $450."
Corradino described Todd as a smitten and trusting young woman, who was lured into meeting Roberts one last time after the two had a brief on-again, off-again relationship.
"He took her by surprise. He was standing behind her when he shot her in the back of the head -- up close and personal," Corradino said. "He killed a girl who he had spent three weeks using -- for her car, her money and her body."
But Public Defender Joseph Bruckmann argued Roberts was under extreme emotional distress when he killed Todd.
"While the story -- the big story -- may be about Emily in this trial, like it or not, the trial centers on his emotional and mental state," Bruckmann said during his closing. "The narrow issue in the case is how did all the circumstances affect Brandon's mental state and emotions and did his emotions influence him when he killed Emily."
Bruckmann told the jury Roberts was struggling with the death of his mother and was suicidal. He said concerns about money, homelessness and his turbulent relationship with Todd added to his stress.
Bruckmann also pointed out Roberts cooperated with police once he was arrested in Ohio and confessed to everything, but initially couldn't say why he killed Todd. Roberts testified last week that he felt pressured into agreeing with investigators' motive of money during his police interview but really didn't have an explanation for why he pulled the trigger.
"Brandon has been consistent in telling everyone that he doesn't know why this happened. If the shooting was based on something other than overwhelming flood of emotions, you think he'd be able to put a label on it. He wouldn't have to say, 'I don't know.' He would've said, 'I needed the money,'" Bruckmann said. "In light of all he told police, why in the world would he hold back if he really didn't know why."
Bruckmann urged the jury to find Roberts not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
Corradino countered this was a carefully controlled killing and cover-up, which doesn't fit with someone who was overwhelmed with emotions.
"If he was in this excessive state of agitation, would it have only been one shot to the back of the neck? Or would he have emptied the magazine into her. He would've riddled her with bullets if he was suffering from an extreme emotional disturbance," Corradino said. "Everyone breaks up. Everyone will lose their parents someday. Is that really extreme emotional disturbance?"
Along with murder, Roberts is charged with felony murder, robbery and carrying a pistol without a permit. Deliberations continue Tuesday morning.