GARDENS MAN GUILTY OF 2007 MURDER IN RETRIAL
Eddie Rutledge gets life plus 30 years in witness’ shooting.
WEST PALM BEACH — For the second time, a Palm Beach Gardens man was found guilty in the 2007 slaying of another city resident who was about to testify against him in a burglary case.
Judge Charles E. Burton sentenced Eddie Rutledge to life in prison plus 30 years for conspiracy to commit murder immediately after the 12-person jury announced its verdict on Monday. It had deliberated for about four hours.
Rutledge repeatedly told Burton that he didn’t kill George Mannarino and implied that a witness in the case was the real killer.
“I didn’t kill Mr. Mannarino and didn’t wish for him to die,” Rutledge said in post-verdict comments.
Defense attorneys painted Rutledge as a victim of circumstantial evidence in making their closing arguments Monday, while prosecutors portrayed him as a brutal killer who “went hunting for a human being.”
Rutledge was charged in the Nov. 25, 2007, slaying of Mannarino, who was scheduled to testify against him the next day in a burglary case. The 4th District Court of Appeal in 2014 threw out Rutledge’s 2010 conviction in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, saying the judge should have investigated a defense attorney’s claims that she was being investigated for witness tampering before finding Rutledge guilty.
The jury found that Rutledge, 34, used a rifle equipped with a scope to shoot Mannarino, 45, in the neck while he smoked a cigarette outside his Palm Beach Gardens home in the Oaks East community.
Mannarino, who owned a pressure-washing business, had watched Rutledge and a second man burglarize the home of a neighbor and was set to testify. Mannarino died instantly after a hollow-point bullet severed his carotid artery.
“He did not want Mr. Mannarino to survive this,” assistant state attorney Lauren Godden told the 10 men and two women on the jury.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Christopher Haddad conceded to jurors that Rutledge, a felon, is “far from perfect” and that “this guy is no angel,” but said Rutledge didn’t commit murder.
Haddad attacked the veracity both of those testifying and the prosecution’s DNA evidence, while adding that the state’s case was built on a framework of circumstantial evidence. Haddad speculated that Kenakil Chuka Gibson, who allegedly accompanied Rutledge in the burglary, may have pulled the trigger on the weapon that killed Mannarino. Only Rutledge’s DNA was found on that trigger, according to testimony.
Gibson, 32, was convicted of Mannarino’s murder six years ago and is serving a life sentence.
“What you have is hole after hole after hole after hole in the state’s case,” Haddad said.
Godden told jurors that Mannarino was shot in the neck from 72 yards away. Rutledge was hiding in bushes nearby when he fired the fatal shot and dropped the rifle at the scene and fled in a vehicle, prosecu- tors said.
Rutledge had extensive military training in using guns, another state prosecutor, Andrew Slater, said in presenting a rebuttal argument to Haddad.
Shortly before reaching a verdict, the jury returned to the courtroom to hear a reading of testimony given by Raymond Feliciano, who said he was allegedly recruited by Rutledge as a hit man to kill Mannarino.
After a meeting at Rutledge’s home, Feliciano told Rutledge he wouldn’t kill Mannarino because he was a drug dealer and not a murderer.
Annoyed at his refusal to kill Mannarino, Feliciano said Rutledge stated, “(Expletive) it. I’ll do it myself.”
After his verdict was announced, Rutledge strongly implied to the judge that it was Feliciano who killed Mannarino.
Eddie “Vince” Rutledge talks with his attorney, Christopher Haddad, before closing arguments in his retrial Monday morning. Rutledge is accused of the execution-style murder of a Palm Beach Gardens man in 2007.