Beaufort News

Port Royal woman found guilty of murder, conspiracy, sentenced to 50 years

Degras' family reacts to Femia's guilty verdict

The family of Nicholas Degras, who was killed in a shooting in January 2015, reacts after Jasmine Femia was found guilty of conspiracy and murder in his shooting on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at the Beaufort County Courthouse.
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The family of Nicholas Degras, who was killed in a shooting in January 2015, reacts after Jasmine Femia was found guilty of conspiracy and murder in his shooting on Wednesday, August 24, 2016, at the Beaufort County Courthouse.

A Port Royal woman was found guilty on murder and conspiracy charges Wednesday afternoon in connection with the brutal January 2015 shooting death of the father of one of her children.

Jasmine Femia, 23, was sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles to 50 years in prison — five years on the conspiracy charge and 45 years on the murder charge.

Nicholas Degros was gunned down outside his Beaufort home on Jan. 9, 2015.

14th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Hunter Swanson called the crime “one of the most heinous murders” that she had ever prosecuted.

Femia’s attorney, Jim Bannon, requested a sentence of 30 years, saying Femia was young at the time of the slaying, had a difficult childhood, has two small children and has no prior convictions.

Degros’ family requested Femia be given the maximum sentence.

After the trial, Degros’ family expressed their relief, saying they were happy to have justice, thankful to the Solicitor’s Office and ready to work out custody agreements for the children affected by the crime.

Femia’s mother and step-father were present during the trial but could not be reached for comment afterward.

Swanson could not be reached for comment after the trial, and Bannon said he had no additional comment.

Anthony Ellison, 39, also faces charges of murder and conspiracy in connection with the homicide and admitted in court on Tuesday that he pulled the trigger. In exchange for his testimony against Femia, Ellison accepted a plea agreement that requires him to serve 30 to 40 years in prison

Swanson argued that witnesses’ accounts proved Femia planned the slaying and set the events in motion. She purchased the gun, rented the car Ellison used to get to Degros’ house, made sure she showed Ellison where Degros’ home was multiple times and planned to go to Walmart with Ellison as an alibi, the prosecution argued. Prosecutors said Femia feared losing custody of her children if Degros testified at a Family Court hearing scheduled days after the slaying.

In her closing statement, Swanson called Femia a “master of manipulation” who was “certainly no stranger to drama.” Swanson argued that Femia seduced Ellison with the promise of a fresh start in Tennessee after Degros was killed and used him as a pawn. She said Ellison’s plea agreement was not a “sweet deal” and that he wouldn’t be released from prison until he was in his 70s.

Bannon argued that the state offered no real facts that proved Femia’s part in planning the slaying or that she had motive to kill Degros. Bannon held steadfast to his argument that Ellison told the truth in his initial interviews with Beaufort Police Department investigators when he said he acted alone and changed his story only after being offered a plea deal from the state.

In his closing statement, Bannon said the state was asking the jury “to use (their) imagination to fill in the blanks in the holes of (the state’s) case.” He told the jury that Femia’s disagreements with Degros over child visitation were nothing that could amount to the motivation to have him killed.

Before jurors left to deliberate over the evidence, Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles explained the “the hand of one is the hand of all” rule of law, in which more than one person can be charged with murder if more than one party was actively involved in planning the killing.

Joan McDonough: 843-706-8125, @IPBG_Joan

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