OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – The fate of an Auburn man, accused in the reckless murder of a husband and wife with his vehicle, is decided by a Lee County jury. 35-year old Antonio Reese was found guilty on all nine charges including two counts of Reckless Murder for killing Dennis and Rhonda Finley of Auburn.
The couple’s two children shared an emotional embrace after the verdicts were read. The jury believed back in April of 2016; Reese was speeding, had drugs in his car and had just refused to stop for Opelika police when he broadsided a vehicle carrying The Finley’s and another couple who had just left dinner.
“This family has suffered so much, and this jury gave them closure today. The District Attorney’s office, the police, and the investigators all did a tremendous job. I thank God for all of these people standing right here they have some closure because they have been through so much,” shared Walter Northcutt, who’s related to the Finley children by marriage.
District Attorney Brandon Hughes got emotional upon hearing the verdict.
“You hear about senseless crimes all the time; this truly was senseless. He was running from police he had drugs in the car, probably would have gone to jail if he had just stopped and bonded out and gone about his business. He didn’t do that. This is something that didn’t need to happen,” shared Hughes.
Reese’s sentencing will happen in late January. Hughes describes Reese as a menace who has multiple violent charges against him separate from this case.
Prosecutors say they could ask for life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, they will need to speak with the victim’s family first.
Days after the incident Finley’s children spoke with News 3 about the loss of their parents: Dennis and Rhonda Finley, remembered by their children
Investigators say Reese was traveling south on Magnolia Avenue in Opelika after refusing to stop for a routine traffic stop in the area of Fruitland Avenue. Investigators say officers lost sight of the vehicle and then moments saw the car had been involved in the crash. Investigators said when Reese entered the intersection at Magnolia Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard he broadsided Finley’s car. Dennis Finley died at the scene, and Rhonda was air-lifted to Midtown Medical Center in Columbus, where she passed away.
Cassey Finley said when she learned of the crash, she thought it was a prank. She said someone called her boyfriend’s phone to notify them of the crash. She then called her brother, Adam and they arrived at the hospital at the same time. When they arrived at the ER, they were told there was nobody under the name Finley in the emergency room. Then, Cassey says an officer and another man told them their father had passed and their mother was taken to Columbus.
That next day, Saturday, the family sat at Rhonda’s bedside. They held her hand and talked to her to try and bring her back. Doctors conducted tests on her. Cassey said late Saturday night, the family knew that Rhonda would not make it, but they still sat at her bedside. “Us kids, my grandparents, her brothers and sisters, and our preacher were all surrounding her bedside,” Cassey said. We sang a song; we held her hand.”
The Finley kids say their parents were incredibly loving and would give the shirt off their backs. They now know that their parents are watching over them.
“I’m glad that they are in Heaven, and I get to see them one day,” Adam said. “I feel like they can hear me when I talk to them. I’ve been talking to them cause I know they are watching over us.”
The whole family was entrenched in their church, Cornerstone United Methodist in Auburn. Rhonda would volunteer in the nursery. Cassey says she knows her mother is in Heaven with Dennis and she is probably holding every baby she sees.