Key West “Tree House Murder” Suspect Found Guilty


One of three perpetrators arrested in the “Tree House Murder” case, Rory “Detroit” Wilson, was found guilty on Friday, December 2nd, by 12 jurors of first-degree murder and robbery with a knife while masked. He faces life in prison. The jury took about two and a half hours to deliberate. 

On November 17th, 2017, two masked men got out of a black pickup truck outside of a tree house on Laurel Avenue in Stock Island and walked up the stairs to an apartment atop the treehouse. One man, John Travis Johnson, was waiting outside with his truck. The two men, who Monroe County sheriff’s detectives identified to be Rory “Detroit” Wilson and Franklin Tyrone Tucker, threatened the woman who lived there with a knife, ultimately stabbing her in the throat. The woman, Paula Belmonte, 58, screamed during the attack, which alerted her neighbor, Matthew Bonnett, to run up the stairs to try to help her. Before he could reach the apartment however, the men attacked Bonnett, stabbing him five times and ending his life before running away. Belmonte survived the attack but was left with a large cut on her neck and right hand. 

The whole situation, according to detectives and prosecutors, was over a crack cocaine deal gone wrong. Detectives received information that another woman sent the men to Belmonte’s home to rob her as payback for ripping her off for drugs and cash weeks earlier, according to court documents. 

Tucker, who maintains his innocence, lives in Portland, Oregon, with CrossFit co-founder Lauren Jenai, who bonded him out of county jail in 2019. The two were childhood friends in Philadelphia and reconnected after Jenai heard about his arrest, and they have since married. Tucker’s trial is pending, and likely won’t happen before the spring, according to officials. John Travis Johnson, the getaway driver, made a deal with prosecutors in May, agreeing to plead guilty to armed robbery and aggravated battery. As part of the deal, Johnson agreed to testifying against Wilson and Tucker.

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