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Battered chaplain speaks out after alleged gunpoint robbery

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Published:   |   Updated: July 17, 2013 at 10:26 AM

BROOKSVILLE - On Tuesday morning, three co-defendants accused of robbing a chaplain at gunpoint appeared before Judge Daniel Merritt Jr.

Sitting in the second row was Rene Jimenez, the victim, along with his family. A finger splint on his right hand was the only visible sign of Jimenez being pistol whipped and beaten just three Sundays earlier when he left his Brookridge home for church.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office believes Jimenez's daughter, Doeminique Sylvester, hatched a plan with her boyfriend, Christopher Miser, and another man, Jason Tortora, to rob her father for drug money.

On the morning of June 30, Miser, 26, and Tortora, 37, waited outside Jimenez's Lomita Wren Road home. Miser wore a bandana over his face, and carried a BB gun that looked like a .45 caliber handgun.

When Jimenez stepped outside, Miser hit him in the head from behind. Jimenez fell and Miser continued to hit him. The chaplain fought back and pulled the bandana off of Miser's face.

After the attack, Jimenez was taken to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, where he was treated and released.

On July 1, Sylvester, 28, was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a firearm and is being held at the Hernando County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Tortora was charged with armed robbery and principal to armed robbery, and remains in the jail on $100,000 bond. Miser has been charged with armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and aggravated battery, and is being held on $110,000 bond.

All three co-defendants are being represented by public defenders, and entered pleas of not guilty. During court, Attorney Ray Shaw said the State Attorney's Office has already offered plea deals to Sylvester, Miser and Tortora that will remain on the table for a month.

Shaw said at some point, the public defender's office will need to represent one of the co-defendants, and conflict off of the other two.

Assistant State Attorney Matthew Pila said the state has offered 8.5 years in prison for Miser, 7 years for Tortora and 4.5 years for Sylvester. Pila said both the victim and law enforcement agreed with the offers, and require the defendants to testify against each other.

Pila added there are no minimum mandatory sentences for carrying a firearm, since the weapon was a BB gun.

After leaving the courtroom, Jimenez said he's not able to lead church services at the jail until the cases are resolved.

"In seven years, I've maybe missed four Sundays," Jimenez said, adding former inmates stop him every once in a while on the street, or at McDonalds, whispering how they remembered him, how he helped change their lives.

Jimenez said his daughter has struggled with drug addiction for years, and he has cared for her two children since they were babies.

Jimenez met Miser about a year ago, and said he found his daughter's new boyfriend "hard working" and "ambitious."

"I liked the way he worked," Jimenez said, adding he hired Miser himself, and recommended him for other odd jobs.

"He was a good worker, trying hard to do something," Jimenez said.

But in court, Jimenez thought Miser looked at him "defiantly,"

"This was a surprise, I showed him confidence and hope and it blew up in my face," Jimenez said.

Jimenez said he still has some aches and pains from the attack, especially in his shoulder and has had trouble sleeping.

Since the story has been in the news, Jimenez said he's been "even more blessed," and receiving even more business at his pest control company.

"It didn't change my life, I just have more pain in my shoulder now," Jimenez said.

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