NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After almost four hours of deliberating, a jury found Roy Coons Jr. guilty of killing 12-year-old Yhoana Arteaga.
Jurors began deliberating in the murder trial of Roy Coons Jr., the man accused of killing a 12-year-old girl, around 2 p.m.
Coons Jr. was found guilty on all five counts, which included, second degree murder, felony murder, second degree murder, attempted rape of a child, and aggravated criminal trespassing. He began to cry as he heard the jury read the verdict.
"Justice absolutely was served for this family and for this community, and all the credit goes to the Metro Nashville Police Department who did an amazing and immense amount of work in this case to put a ton of resources into this case and put together a great case and made our jobs pretty easy," said Prosecutor Jeff George.
Prosecutor Pamela Anderson discussed the charges and the time Coons could serve as a result.
"He was found guilty of second degree murder, was originally indited for premeditated murder on that count. So what the jury's decision was that Roy Coons Jr. did the killing and that it was a knowing killing, but they just didn't find that there was necessarily the premeditation which is reflection and judgment," said Anderson.
"Second degree murder is a hundred percent crime. Given his prior record, I would anticipate at sentencing his exposure would be somewhere between a minimum of 25 years at 100 percent, up to 40 years at a hundred percent. He was also found guilty of the felony murder count on one of those. That carries a mandatory life sentence which in Tennessee means 60 years at 100 percent," she added.
He was accused of using her karate belt to strangle her. In the state's closing argument, the jury got to see the belt for the first time, causing Yhoana's mother to break down.
The state said all signs point to Coons including text messages sent by Yhoana to her mother, saying she thinks the man who mows their yard was knocking on the door.
His father, Roy Coons Sr., testified for the defense before closing arguments get underway.
In his closing argument, public defender David Hopkins said the state focused on the wrong guy. Even if there’s DNA evidence with a partial match found in three areas of the victim’s body and bathroom window.
"They guessed about walking this way, he must have done this and went through this way, all of that is a guess because you heard no proof that it actually happened," said David Hopkins, Public Defender.
He argued Coons didn’t have DNA on the yellow karate belt used to strangle 12-year-old Yhoana Arteaga. There were no witnesses, not one single fingerprint, no scratches that show signs of a struggle, or any of the victim’s DNA in his car or home.
But prosecutors argued he could have used gloves and even removed his shoes within the thirty minutes his phone was pinged in and out of the mobile park home.
They also said he had suspicious behavior and strange statements after her death, even when Coons told police he knew she was strangled even though investigators have publicly not released that information.
Prosecutors tried to debunk the defense’s claims that as a karate student, Yhoana would have tried to fight back leaving more DNA evidence.
Prosecutor Pamela Anderson said, "How are you gonna do a round kick or heel kick when you got a sore ankle, so sore that you can barely walk on can you effectively defend yourself."
Throughout the week, prosecutors went through more than 300 photos of the crime scene and brought in about 30 people to testify.
Yhoana's mother said she would have like to have seen Coons Jr. show remorse for what he did, but said with the verdict, she can now move on.
"We're gonna move forward by staying positive and realizing and knowing that we have a purpose. We have a purpose as to why we're here. We'll keep her memory alive by thinking about her, thinking about the good times that we had together as a family and moving forward."