Bellacino’s murder accomplice pleads guilty

Friday, March 12, 2010 at 2:11pm

Tarina Simmons pleaded guilty Friday for her role in the October 2007 double murder of two Bellacino’s employees.

As part of a best interest plea deal, Simmons pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. She will serve two concurrent 35-year prison sentences.

Simmons faced two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery, but they were dropped as part of the plea deal.

During the hearing Simmons rocked back and forth in her chair while two of the victims’ family members described how the crime Simmons was sentenced for had altered their lives.

“Our families’ lives were robbed,” said Tina Cole, the mother of Joshua Cole, who would have turned 21 last week.

“They took Josh away but they will never be able to take our memories away from us.”

Ted Caris, the father of murdered Bellacino’s employee Christopher Caris, traveled from Michigan to take the stand Friday.

Ted Caris showed the court a picture of the victim's nephew.

“[Christopher] loved this little baby, and I think he would have been a wonderful father,”
Caris said.

After the hearing, Cole told The City Paper she hoped the sentence would give Simmons’ children a chance at better lives. Caris said it was important for him to make the long drive from Michigan on behalf of his son and family to put a human face on the murders.

Prosecutors had argued that Simmons and the other defendants plotted the robbery at Simmons’ apartment and divvied up the cash haul there after the robbery.

Clothes and other items linked to the crime were later found outside Simmons’ home, and the state’s attorney also said Simmons hid the gunman, Jason Bobo, in her apartment while police sought him.

As for the other three defendants in the case, Bobo was sentenced to life without parole. Ravaughn Harris, the driver, was acquitted last year, and Crystal Rutherford has yet to face trial.

Bobo was accused of shooting Joshua Cole and Christopher Caris in the head at close range during the robbery.