Jimmy Ray Rodgers, one of three men accused in the 2015 bludgeoning death of Bonita Springs doctor Teresa Sievers, seemed to swallow especially hard Wednesday as he heard he was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Rodgers faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced in front of Lee Circuit Judge Bruce Kyle at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18.
Rodgers, 29, no longer faces the death penalty but could be sentenced to life in prison. He was originally charged with first-degree murder, however the jury at the Lee County Justice Center convicted him of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
They also found him guilty of trespassing, a lesser charge of first-degree burglary while armed, and not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.
Teresa Sievers, 46, was found dead, face down on the kitchen floor of her family's home at 27034 Jarvis Road on June 29, 2015. Investigators found a hammer next to her body.
Rodgers, the victim's husband Mark Sievers, 51, and her husband's close friend Curtis Wayne Wright Jr., 51, were accused in the killing.
A separate trial for Mark Sievers is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Lee County Justice Center, according to court records.
The jury of five men and seven women deliberated for about 13 hours total Tuesday and Wednesday before reaching a verdict around 2:10 p.m. Wednesday.
Assistant State Attorney Cynthia Ross said the prosecution will ask the judge to sentence Rodgers to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge.
"We always respect a verdict of a jury," Ross said outside the courtroom Wednesday. "This jury worked very hard, spent a lot of time, paid very close attention to all the evidence. We are going to respect that verdict."
Rodgers' defense attorneys did not comment to reporters after the verdict.
The family of Teresa Sievers sat in the second row of the gallery behind the prosecutor's table for majority of the trial.
Teresa Sievers' brother, Patrick Tottenham, and sister, Ann Lisa, sat on either side of their mother, Mary Ann Groves, as the verdict was read.
They held hands and took deep, nervous breaths before Rodgers' fate was communicated. Afterward, they exited the courtroom and entered an elevator to leave the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
The Rodgers trial, which began Oct. 1, heard seven days of witness testimony and a full day of closing arguments.
Jurors listened to dramatic testimony from around 30 witnesses called by the prosecution, including Rodgers' ex-girlfriend, investigators from the Lee County Sheriff's Office, analysts from the FBI and Rodgers' co-defendant Wright.
Rodgers appeared focused on what witnesses were saying without having much of a reaction for much of the trial. During breaks in the jury selection process and between certain witness, he appeared relaxed and smiling at times while talking with his attorneys.
Rodgers declined to take the stand and his defense team rested without calling any witnesses. Before closing arguments began on Monday, defense attorneys twice motioned for a judgment of acquittal from the judge.
Assistant Public Defender Jay Brizel said there was a lack of evidence showing Rodgers was actually in the Sievers house at the time of the murder.
"The state has got played by Curtis Wayne Wright," Brizel said. "His story makes no sense."
Brizel cited a statement from AT&T that came with phone records used by the state to show Rodgers' phone was in the house during the murder.
The AT&T statement read by Brizel cautioned that location information was less than exact.
Brizel also attempted to discredit the testimony of Rodgers' ex-girlfriend Taylor Shomaker, who he said was not trustworthy because she was paid by the Lee County Sheriff's Office as part of a witness program and could be eligible for $50,000 reward in the case.
The judge denied both of the defense team's motions for a judgment of acquittal on Monday.
During his testimony in the trial on Oct. 17, Wright admitted to his part in the death of Teresa Sievers in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence.
Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter asked him who killed Teresa Sievers.
"I did and Jimmy Rodgers," Wright responded. He then spent about three hours detailing the killing in front of the jury and was cross examined by the defense the following day.
Mark Sievers first approached Wright with the idea of having his wife killed at Wright's Missouri wedding in May 2015, Wright said.
Rodgers became involved because Wright asked for help and didn't want to kill the woman by himself, Wright said.
Rodgers met Wright while they were incarcerated at the Sainte Genevieve County jail in Missouri in 2010. Wright and Mark Sievers grew up together in Missouri and were childhood friends.
The Sievers were having marriage problems and Mark was in fear of losing his two daughters in a custody battle with his wife, Wright testified.
Behind it all was a life insurance policy Mark Sievers had taken out on his wife, Wright testified.
Mark Sievers told Wright he would pay $100,000 or more to have his wife killed and the plan was to share some of that money with Rodgers, Wright said on the witness stand.
Rodgers' defense attorneys attempted to convince jurors Wright was the sole person responsible for Teresa Sievers' murder during closing arguments this week.
Wright is an evil, lying man trying to pin the blame on others, Assistant Public Defender Donald McFarlane said.
The state's evidence was incomplete and did not show Rodgers presence in Florida was connected to the killing of Teresa Sievers, he said.
Wright first agreed to a plea deal with the prosecution in February 2016.
The same day authorities announced the agreement, they arrested Mark Sievers. The agreement required that Wright provide substantial assistance to the prosecution in the cases against both of his co-defendants.
Wright's sentencing is contingent upon him telling the truth in court. He is expected to take the witness stand again during the trial for Mark Sievers.
Mark Sievers is charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if convicted. He also faces a conspiracy to commit murder charge.
Shomaker, who lived with Rodgers in Missouri during the summer of 2015, said she initiated a conversation with Rodgers about the death of Teresa Sievers while in bed.
Rodgers told her he killed Teresa Sievers with a hammer, she said from the witness stand on Oct. 16. Shomaker also said Rodgers' nickname for himself was "Jimmy the hammer."
The prosecution and defense are expected to call witnesses to give impact statements at Rodgers' November sentencing hearing.