GAR­DENS MAN GUILTY OF 2007 MUR­DER IN RE­TRIAL

Ed­die Rut­ledge gets life plus 30 years in wit­ness’ shoot­ing.

The Palm Beach Post - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - By Jorge Mil­ian Palm Beach Post Staff Writer jmil­ian@pbpost.com Twit­ter: @caneswatch

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.

LANNIS WA­TERS / THE PALM BEACH POST

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.

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