Mt. Vernon man avoids death penalty with plea deal

He agrees to life in prison, will testify against others in 2006 murder

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram Crime Editor

July 1, 2008 - A Mount Vernon entered a guilty plea Monday afternoon to the 2006 capital murder of Veranda Bed and Breakfast owner Robert Whiteside in Mount Vernon.

Mark Aaron Rains, 22, is scheduled to appear for sentencing Tuesday, July 8, in a Franklin County court before Eighth Judicial District Judge Robert Newsom.

District Attorney Martin Braddy requested the sentencing phase of the trial be held at a later time to give ample time for the victim's brother, who lives in another state, and partner, who is currently out of the country, time to travel to Mount Vernon to testify during sentencing.

Rains is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The plea was made as part of a deal in which Braddy agreed not to pursue the death penalty in exchange for Rains' testimony against other codefendants in the case.

Juan Chavez of Dallas is also facing a capital murder charge, and authorities are still trying to locate a third man believed to have a role in the murder, identified only as "Cuz" or "Cousin."

Two other people, Ladarian Gentry and Carl Grant, were charged in connection with the theft of Whiteside's truck. Rains and Gentry, who initially identified himself as Narada Newman but was later have determined to have stolen that man's identity, were arrested for unauthorized use of motor vehicle after they were found by Dallas police in the pickup a few days after the murder. Rains' stepfather and girlfriend also were charged for assisting with Rains' escape from Franklin County jail in March 2007.

The district attorney said that what charges Gentry and Grant will face has yet to be determined. They have both been cooperative, and Braddy said all evidence thus far has indicated neither went to the residence nor were directly involved in the shooting.

After Rains and Gentry were found in the stolen truck, search warrants were issued for the suspects' apartments, where items were found supporting information authorities had received indicating the death was the result of a botched burglary and robbery at Whiteside's home southeast of Mount Vernon, District Attorney Martin Braddy said at the time. Chavez turned himself in the following day after being contacted by authorities.

Whiteside, 56 at the time of his death, was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds on Halloween day.

"He was a tremendous person and a great asset to the community," Braddy said of Whiteside. "He was also somewhat renowned as chef. He was one of those unique people. No one I've found has has anything negative to say about him."

Whiteside was also known for his artistry and craftsmanship as a jeweler, having had pieces commissioned by presidents of three countries, prime ministers, princes, queens and wives of chancellors. Whiteside's pieces ranged from pricy display eggs to rings, bands, necklaces and other pieces valued between $100 and $50,000 per item, the Veranda Bed and Breakfast website boasted..

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