Revealed: The incredibly vile act man who killed footy star’s brother over a love triangle committed as his victim lay dying on a road

A man who mowed down the brother of a former NRL star in a “brutal and senseless” murder stole money from the deceased man as he lay in the road before fleeing to the Sunshine Coast to avoid detection.

The gruesome detail surrounding the death of Jake Opacic – brother of former Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and Parramatta Eels star Tom Opacic – was revealed as Benjamin Charles Johnson and Steven Dale Latter pleaded guilty to the 29-year-old’s manslaughter outside Queensland . prison, all linked to a relationship dispute.

Both men appeared to wipe away tears as Jake’s mother Rhonda Opacic told the Brisbane Supreme Court of her grief at losing her “wild, fun-loving, loyal and loving” son in such a “brazen” act.

Jake Opacic (pictured) was killed while riding his motorcycle in 2021. Two men pleaded guilty to manslaughter during a chase designed to intimidate him

Jake is the brother of NRL star Tom Opacic (pictured), who played for the Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and Parramatta Eels

Jake is the brother of NRL star Tom Opacic (pictured), who played for the Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and Parramatta Eels

She spoke of her last words to her son as he packed up for a weekend away on the Gold Coast and how she was haunted by the horrific circumstances of his death.

β€œHe was chased and left alone in the sand at the side of the road,” Ms Opacic read from her victim impact statement.

‘Did he suffer? Has he regained consciousness? Did he call to me?

‘My thoughts revolve around these questions. I’m trying to understand why they tried to hit him.”

Mr Opacic was killed in an accident near the Numinbah Correctional Center in the Gold Coast hinterland on July 2, 2021.

The court was told he had gone to prison to pick up his then girlfriend Rheannon Rowe, who was released that day.

Johnson and Latter had spent the day prior consuming drugs and spoke of Johnson’s “perceived contempt”, with Ms Rowe continuing her relationship with Mr Opacic.

Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane said Johnson and Ms Rowe had previously been in a relationship for 12 years and had several children together.

Mr Crane said there was a “consideration” of physical violence on Mr Opacic’s part when they too decided to pick up Ms Rowe from prison.

Steven Dale Latter was behind the wheel of the car that struck and killed Opacic.  He then stole money from his backpack as he lay dying

Steven Dale Latter was behind the wheel of the car that struck and killed Opacic. He then stole money from his backpack as he lay dying

Benjamin Charles Johnson (pictured) was angry with Mr Opacic over his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Rheannon Rowe

Benjamin Charles Johnson (pictured) was angry with Mr Opacic over his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Rheannon Rowe

During the conversation, Johnson said, “I’m going to get Rheannon, and I’m going to try Opacic.”

Mr Crane said Latter had also discussed going there and promised to “intervene” if Johnson “lost”.

On the day of Ms Rowe’s release, the pair came close to a confrontation with Mr Opacic after their car broke down near the prison.

The court was told an aggressive Johnson claimed Opacic had ‘stolen’ his girlfriend, saying: ‘He’s taken my whole family, I’m going to kill him’.

Mr Opacic then sped away on his motorbike.

Mr Crane said Latter gave chase to their car – with Johnson in the passenger seat – and at one point collided with Mr Opacic’s motorcycle.

His “severe” injuries were consistent with him being run over while lying in the road or from rebounding after the impact, Crane said.

The court was told Johnson (left, pictured with Ms Rowe) had said words to the effect of 'he's taken my whole family, I'm going to kill him' while outside prison before Opacic's death

The court was told Johnson (left, pictured with Ms Rowe) had said words to the effect of ‘he’s taken my whole family, I’m going to kill him’ while outside prison before Opacic’s death

β€œThe latter was driving in what the Crown believes is a serious act of criminal negligence,” he said.

“And Johnson encouraged or motivated Later to drive that way.”

The court was told Latter then stole a backpack containing $10,200 from Mr Opacic while he was on the road.

He then fled to the Sunshine Coast that evening to avoid detection, Crane said.

Mr Opacic planned to use the money to travel with Ms Rowe, the court was told.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Opacic said she would always cherish the birthday and Mother’s Day cards her son spent hours selecting for her.

β€œJake made an unforgettable impression on everyone he met,” she said.

‘He was good with children and wanted children of his own.’

She said her son died without peace or dignity and that his death left a hole in her life that “could never be filled.”

β€œThe last thing I said to him was, ‘Goodbye, have fun,’” she said of her son’s last words to her.

“If I had known that was the last time we spoke, I would never have let him go.”

Johnson and Latter had both pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges, while Latter also pleaded guilty to a single charge of theft of property.

Mr Crane called for sentences of as much as 10 years for both.

Lawyers for Johnson and Latter said their clients had both expressed remorse for their actions and written apologies to the Opacic family.

Lawyer Angus Edwards, representing Johnson, said his client was exposed to an “adverse childhood” and abuse during his childhood, turning to substance abuse as a coping mechanism.

The court was told the chase was only intended to intimidate Mr Opacic.

Latter’s lawyer said his client had also struggled with drug use, which had increased after the death of his parents.

He explained that Latter was a “reluctant” participant.

Judge Glenn Martin will hand down his sentence later on Thursday.