Man who killed 4 people sentenced to death in Nebraska

Nikko Jenkins
FILE - In this April 16, 2014 file photo, Nikko Jenkins is led to court by a Douglas County deputy in Omaha, Neb. Jenkins, convicted of killing four people in and around Omaha in 2013. A three-judge panel sentenced Jenkins to death, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The panel had the option of sentencing Jenkins to death or life in prison. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A man convicted of killing four people in Omaha in 2013 has been given Nebraska’s first death sentence since the state’s voters reinstated the punishment in November.

A three-judge panel issued its ruling Tuesday in the case of Nikko Jenkins, who was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder for the August 2013 shooting deaths.

The judicial panel had the option of sentencing Jenkins to death or life in prison. The judges cited the heinous nature of the killings in their decision and said they believed state psychiatrists who testified that while Jenkins does have narcissistic and anti-social personality disorders, he knew right from wrong when he committed the crimes.

“Each one of these murders was a planned and deliberate act,” Douglas County District Judge Peter Bataillon said Tuesday during the hearing.

Jenkins, who was visibly thinner than when he was first arrested, showed no emotion as he was sentenced. The only words he said loud enough to be heard from the gallery were directed at his public defender, when he refused to sign paperwork to file an appeal.

“You’re not doing my appeal,” Jenkins said to Douglas County Public Defender Thomas Riley.

Appeals are automatically filed in death penalty cases in Nebraska. The judicial panel ordered Riley to handle the appeal, despite Jenkins’ objection.

In addition to death for each of the four counts of murder, Jenkins also was sentenced to at least 450 years for a dozen weapons counts in the case.

Jenkins pleaded no contest in 2014, but his sentencing has been delayed for years because of concerns about his mental competency. His defense psychiatrist said Jenkins suffers from schizophrenia and perhaps a bipolar disorder. Defense lawyers have noted Jenkins’ habit of tattooing his face and self-mutilation while in prison, as well as his ramblings in court, as proof of a deteriorating mental state.

State psychiatrists, however, have repeatedly declared that Jenkins is sane and testified during the case that he is faking psychosis.

Just 11 days after his release from prison, where he had been for 10 years for two carjackings, Jenkins shot and killed Juan Uribe-Pena and Jorge Cajiga-Ruizon on Aug. 11, 2013.

Prosecutors say eight days later, Jenkins and his sister killed Curtis Bradford, a one-time prison acquaintance. Then, on Aug. 21, police say, Jenkins pulled Andrea Kruger from her SUV as she drove home from work and shot her four times before speeding off in her vehicle.

Prosecutors argued that Jenkins planned the killings to cover up robberies of the victims or to keep them from identifying him, but Jenkins insisted an Egyptian god ordered him in a foreign language to kill the four as human sacrifices.

Jenkins was ultimately found competent to stand trial and allowed to represent himself for much of it. He was then allowed in 2014 to plead no contest to the murder charges. A no-contest plea acknowledges there is sufficient evidence to convict, but is not an admittance of guilt.

Nebraska lawmakers abolished capital punishment in 2015, but death penalty supporters responded with a statewide ballot campaign that prevented the law from going into effect until voters decided whether to overturn the Legislature’s decision. Nearly 61 percent of voters last November opted to reinstate the penalty.

The last execution in Nebraska was carried out in 1997, when Robert Williams died in the state’s now-defunct electric chair for killing two women in 1977.

The mother of one of Jenkins’ victims cried quietly as she left the courtroom.

Velita Glasgow, the mother of Curtis Bradford, said Tuesday’s sentence brought much-needed closure for her.

“It’s time for me to heal,” she said. “I’m ready to put this behind me.”