Guilty Verdict in Accessory to Murder Trial

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By: Julie Montanaro
April 29, 2016

The jury deliberated for approximately five hours before reaching a verdict.

It found Jennifer Ellis guilty as charged of two counts of accessory after

She faces a maximum of 60 years in prison. Sentencing is set for June 6th.

By: Julie Montanaro
April 29, 2016

The jury has just reached a verdict in the accessory to murder trial of Jennifer Ellis.

We will bring you that verdict as soon as it is announced.

By: Julie Montanaro
April 29, 2016

A jury is now deliberating in an accessory to murder trial.

Jennifer Ellis is accused of hiding the bodies and cleaning up the crime scene after her boyfriend beat two people to death with a hammer.

Jason Coshatt and Lynette "Bella" Lee were killed at a campsite near the St. Marks trail in May 2014.

Ellis's boyfriend Joseph "Shannon" Oakes is already serving two consecutive life sentences for the murders.

The jury in Ellis' trial started deliberating at 10:30 this morning.

If convicted, Ellis faces a maximum of 60 years in prison.

By: Julie Montanaro
April 28, 2016
6:30 p.m.

Both the state and defense have rested their cases in the accessory to murder trial of Jennifer Ellis.

Attorneys will begin their closing arguments in the morning and the jury could begin deliberating as early as lunchtime Friday.

Ellis's friend, Joseph "Shannon" Oakes is already serving a life sentence for the murders of Jason Coshatt and Lynette "Bella" Lee.

Ellis is accused of hiding their bodies and cleaning up the crime scene after Oakes beat them to death with a hammer.

That happened in May 2014 in a tent the couples shared at a camp site near the head of the St. Marks trail.

By: Julie Montanaro
April 28, 2016 2:50 p.m.

Jennifer Ellis has been on the stand for nearly an hour.

She testified that she was in the tent when Joseph "Shannon" Oakes attacked Jason Coshatt and Lynette "Bella" Lee with a hammer. Ellis testified Oakes hit them in the head "over and over" and then slit their throats.

"He went over with a hammer...and I heard the guy say 'No, dude, no' and at that point I figured out what he was doing and I begged him not to," she said, "not to hurt them, not to do this."

Ellis said afterward she was in shock and even after Oakes passed out, she was afraid to leave the tent because it was in the woods at night.

Ellis says she cleaned up the bloody tent the next morning and helped Oakes move the bodies.

"I was afraid if I didn't help him, something would happen to me. I have three kids. I didn't want to die," Ellis testified.

Ellis testified they went to Publix and to an AA meeting and then got some beer and returned to the campsite. Ellis said she didn't tell anyone what happened.

By: Julie Montanaro
April 28, 2016 2 p.m.

The state has rested its case against Jennifer Ellis.

She is accused of being an accessory after a brutal double murder near the St. Marks trail.

Her friend, Joseph Shannon Oakes is already serving consecutive life sentences for beating Jason Coshatt and Lynette Lee to death with a hammer in May 2014.

Ellis is accused of helping Oakes to cover the bodies with trash and clean up the crime scene.

Jennifer Ellis just took the stand and will testify in her own defense.

By: Edan Schultz
March 18, 2015

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A Tallahassee man is headed to prison for a double murder last May near the St. Marks Trail.

Joseph Oakes appeared before a judge at the Leon County Courthouse Wednesday shortly after 11 a.m. and pleaded no contest to 2 counts of first degree murder.

He's accused of killing 29-year-old Jason Coshatt and 21-year-old Lynette Lee with a hammer at a campsite near the St. Marks trail last May.

The courtroom was full of emotion as relatives of the victims read impact statements.

"A piece of me died with him that day and I will never be the same," said Jason Coshatt's mother, Lori Zahniser.

Zahniser also read a statement from the oldest of Jason's three children: "I love my dad and the love I had with my dad got taken away by them."

Jason's mom says she feels justice was served, but there's no going back- for the families, or for the defendant.

"I do hope that he finds god and forgiveness while he spends the rest of his life in prison," said Zahniser.

Oakes was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Joseph Oakes girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Ellis, is also accused in this case. She's charged with accessory after the fact for helping to clean up the crime scene and hide the bodies. Ellis is due in court next month.

News Release: Tallahassee Police Department
May 14, 2014 - 3pm

The victims from the double homicide have been identified below. The investigation has revealed that they were homeless and had befriended the arrestees. They were living in the wooded area across the street from the St. Marks Trail, with the arrestees.

Jason R. Coshatt W/M 2/17/1985
At large

Lynette L. Lee W/F 8/20/1992
At large

By: Andy Alcock
May 13, 2014 - 7pm

Amanda Cannon loaded her bike into her vehicle Tuesday at a parking lot near Woodville Highway and Capital Circle after a trip along the St. Marks Trail.

Like many people, Amanda rides her bike, jogs and walks along the trail.

On Monday morning, when Amanda, who ironically is the staff director of the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee, arrived at the parking lot, it was blocked off by police.

"And they said it was a crime scene and they told me where I could park, they told me that the trail was open and they had apprehended a suspect," Amanda said.

Right across Woodville Highway from the parking lot, police found the body of a man and a woman in the woods buried in trash next to a tent.

Police say 43 year old Jennifer Ellis and 32 year old Joseph Oakes who are homeless lived in the tent.

Court records show Oakes confessed to beating both the man and woman to death with a hammer and cutting off the man's foot with a machete because of a perceived slight of his ex-wife who is also Ellis' sister.

"It's a little unnerving," said trail user Mark Northcutt. "I hope there's not much intersection between that night time crowd and the day time bike riders," he said.

"I feel relatively safe and I hope people who frequent this lovely place continue to come," Amanda said.

A police spokesman tells us there is no public safety threat because of this double murder case.

However, he also says investigators have not yet identified the bodies of the murder victims.

Anyone with information is asked to call Tallahassee Police.

News Release: TPD
May 12, 2014 - 8:30pm

On 5/12/14 The Tallahassee Police Department with assistance from the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the area of the St. Marks Trail head and found two victims deceased from apparent homicide. The following suspects have been arrested in connection with these murders:

Joseph S. Oakes w/m
No local address
See attached Probable Cause

Jennifer R. Ellis w/f
No local address
See attached Probable Cause

If you have any information about this crime, please contact TPD at 606-5800 or Crime Stoppers at 574-TIPS. Crime Stoppers does not want your name, just your information and you could be eligible for a cash reward.

Jennifer Ellis | Courtesy of TPD
Joseph Oakes | Courtesy of TPD

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