By Cara Pallone
As Deputy District Attorney Rob Whiting stated Wednesday in his closing statements in Montrose District Court: The evidence in this case is clear.
On September 8th, 2017, police responded to a property in Norwood. And on this property, they discovered two dead girls in a vehicle. In connection with those deaths, five adults were arrested and charged. One of those people was the victims’ mother.
The jury decided that Nashika Bramble did act knowingly with respect to her conduct, and that she was aware her conduct would practically be certain to cause a result.
In this case, it was knowing that her two daughters were in a hot car in in with no food or water. And the result, is that they died. 180 pounds of food was found on the property afterward.
Bramble, and African American woman in her late 30s, was convicted of two counts of first degree murder Wednesday. Her sentencing is scheduled for October first in San Miguel County. A change of venue was granted in the case, which is why the trial was held in Montrose County.
What unraveled after the discovery of the bodies of Makayla Roberts,10, and Hannah Roberts, 8, on that Friday, September 8th, 2017 is a bizarre story about a group of travelers who were invited back to the Norwood property where they were awaiting the end of times. The alleged ringleader, a Haitian woman named Madani Ceus, reportedly sent the two girls to a vehicle and told the others to withhold food and water because the girls were impure and it would hold them all back from achieving what they referred to as “light body.”
Bramble’s trial began on the 8th and lasted a week and a half. It took the jury about an hour to hand down a guilty verdict.
Anywhere from a dozen to two dozen people were in the audience throughout the day. Bramble, dressed in a black suit with her hair in braids, swayed side to side at times in her seat and remained outwardly composed when the jury returned the verdict.
While the prosecution argued that Bramble was a person in a position of trust who took part in isolating and starving her children, Bramble’s defense attorney, Harvey Palefsky, argued that the case is about the illusion of free will. He told the jury that Ceus was the only person who had free will on that property, describing her as “evil, vile, a witch, and a master manipulator,” and that everyone had to bow down to her. Palefsky stated that everyone feared her, and that while it may seem ridiculous to us, we didn’t live in that reality.
Yet, as Whiting argued: once her girls were dead and it became apparent that the end of times was not going to take place, Bramble saved her own life. She left the property, got a bus ticket and only when she saw herself on the news did she turn herself in.
In a video played during the trial, Bramble told investigators that she made the decision to quote: “leave or end up dead.”
She was pregnant at the time of her arrest and delivered a child while in custody.
Following closing arguments, KOTO News asked for comments from the prosecution and defense teams.
Deputy District Attorney Rob Whiting commented that he felt his team was able to effectively present the evidence they intended to present over the course of the trial, his first case as Deputy DA involving a homicide.
“Procedurally, disagreement is an inherent part of the system and that’s the point of having two different lawyers. And Judge Yoder is really clear, she keeps things moving, she respects people’s rights and I think all of that was showcased in the past week and a half.”
Bramble’s defense attorney Palefsky said even when his client wasn’t communicating with him over the past almost two years since her arrest, he continued to work for her, saying it would be unprofessional if he just gave up. Past experiences he commented. have proven the importance of the phrase: innocent until proven guilty.
“I’ve had enough cases where it turned out, especially with another double homicide, that the guy was not guilty and someone else was convicted. I just realize, I wasn’t there, I don’t know the situation. Look at the Central Park 5. I have a job to do, the DA has a job to do. Hopefully if we both do our jobs, there will be some justice in the case.”
Bramble is the second of the Norwood five to stand trial. Ashford Nathaniel Archer of Haiti was convicted in March on two counts of child abuse resulting in death and an accessory charge. His trial lasted nearly three weeks. In June, he was sentenced to 24 years in the department of corrections, with credit for time served.
Sheriff Bill Masters was in attendance Wednesday, as he has been at most of the court proceedings for the Norwood 5. He commented that it is still impactful for him to be in the audience watching the videos and listening to testimony nearly two years later.
“It certainly is, it’s a case that’s going to be with us for a long time. We’ve spent a lot of time on it, investigating this to the proper degree and presenting it to the district attorney and preparing for trials. It’s going to go on still for quite some time.”
The next trial is for Madani Ceus and is scheduled for four weeks in January 2020. She remains at the San Miguel County Jail.
The remaining two people involved in the case, Ika Eden of Jamaica, is in the custody of the state hospital and has been deemed incompetent to stand trial. And Frederick Blair, the only Caucasian person of the five, was offered a plea deal in exchange for his testimony. Two counts of felony child abuse were dismissed.
He also is currently lodged at the San Miguel County Jail and is scheduled for a status conference on August 29th.