Des Moines woman found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2017 shooting death of Ames man
A Des Moines woman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and third-degree robbery in connection with a 2017 fatal shooting.
Jordan Nicole Bryant, 27, had been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Xavier Jordan Shepley, 21, of Ames. Shepley died from a single gunshot wound to the upper torso on Nov. 18, 2017.
Bryant is one of four Des Moines residents charged in Shepley's death. A jury found Anthony English guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in September. Demario Woods pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, second-degree robbery and first-degree burglary last June. Albrea Winfrey, who faces the same charges as Bryant, will stand trial June 29.
Had the jury returned a guilty verdict of first-degree murder, Bryant would have faced life in prison.
Bryant is "very grateful" for the jury's conclusion, defense attorney Mark Weinhardt said in an emailed statement.
"While she was convicted of two lesser included charges, she will avoid a lengthy prison sentence," Weinhardt said. "Having spent more than two years in jail while facing the possibility (of) life without parole for first degree murder, Jordan is thrilled that she will get her life back.”
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Andrew Prosser prosecuted the case.
"It was a long case and everybody worked hard. The jury did its job and now it's over," Prosser said. "It was a difficult case for (the jury), I'm sure, and I appreciate their hard work."
Due to COVID-19 social distancing, the victim's mother, Genny Shepley, had to watch the trial on a livestream in a courthouse conference room.
"I'm just very disappointed. Sad," Shepley said in a text message after the verdict was read.
Previous coverage of the Jordan Bryant trial:
- Opening statements in Ames murder trial reveal verdict may hinge on cellphone records
- 'A bizarre case': Defense, prosecution give closing statements in trial for Xavier Shepley’s killing
While English was found to have fired the fatal shot, Prosser argued Bryant "played an absolutely critical role" in planning the robbery by arranging to meet up with Shepley at his apartment. The state presented what it said were text messages and Snapchats between Bryant and Shepley that night.
But Bryant's defense argued not all of the correspondence could be attributed to her.
"We're going to have a big fight in this case about who was holding that phone at various points in time," Attorney Todd Lantz said during opening statements.
Prosser said Bryant and Winfrey entered Shepley’s apartment first to intoxicate the victim and signal when English and Woods could enter and start the confrontation, Prosser said. Weinhardt countered that there is no proof Bryant knew of the robbery beforehand.
Bryant's difficult life had led her to sell sex for money, according to her defense. She had gone to Shepley's apartment that night for "exotic dancing, and stripping, and maybe more than stripping," Lantz said.
She was not a part of the same tight-knit Des Moines community as the other three defendants, according to Weinhardt, who said text messages showed the others were concerned Bryant was the “weak link."
“Jordan Bryant has not lived a great life,” Weinhardt said during closing arguments. “She’s been dominated. She’s been pushed around. She’s been manipulated. She spent a lot of her life alone.”
The maximum sentences possible for involuntary manslaughter and third-degree robbery are five years and two years, respectively. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 11.
Ames Tribune reporter Danielle Gehr contributed to this report.