“House of Horrors”: Russell Tillis avoids death penalty, sentenced to life in prison

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Thursday, April 15, convicted ‘House of Horrors’ killer of Jacksonville, Russell Tillis, learned he would not face the death penalty.

His fate was in the hands of 12 jurors.

Nine were in favor of the death penalty.

Three were in favor of Tillis being sentenced to life in prison.

Assistant State Attorney, Alan Mizrahi, spoke to Action News Jax after the jury’s decision.

“No, I’m not disappointed in the verdict,” said Mizrahi. “… And the jurors of their own free will were able to decide whether or not they want death imposed, and the vast majority found that death was appropriate in this case. Some didn’t, and that is their God-given right.”

Before deliberating, the jury heard from Tillis’ ex-girlfriend, Shannon Brinkley, who said Tillis’ father sexually abused him.

It was an argument the defense made for why Tillis shouldn’t be executed.

“Russell is badly broken. He’s damaged. But he’s not beyond redemption,” said defense attorney, Allison Miller.

The State argued the murder of Joni Gunter, whose dismembered remains were found on Tillis’ Southside property, deserved the death penalty.

“Do human beings rape? Do human beings kidnap?” said Mizrahi.

Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert, Dale Carson, explained why nine jurors alone couldn’t sentence Tillis to death.

“The requirement is that it be a unanimous decision by the jury panel,” said Carson.

More on the “House of Horrors” Trial:

Russell Tillis found guilty of first-degree murder | Jury selected in “House of Horrors” trial | ‘He scared me’: Brother of Russell Tillis, man accused of killing, burying woman in backyard | Murder trial for Jacksonville ‘House of Horrors’ suspect Russell Tillis delayed until May | ‘House of Horror’s’ murder suspect reaches out to Action News Jax reporter | Jacksonville man charged with murder in ‘House of Horrors’ case