Suspects plead not guilty to murder of James Austin

Two men pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges that they conspired and killed 18-year-old James Austin, son of retired Trenton police Sgt. Luddie Austin.

Around 1:45 p.m. on Feb. 26, police found Austin lying in the foyer of a residence in the 900 block of East State Street suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. Austin later died at Capital Health Regional Medical Center.

Robert Bartley and Raheem Currie were arrested in connection with Austin’s death a day after the murder. And in November, a grand jury indicted them on charges of murder, conspiracy and two weapons offenses. The men both pled innocent Wednesday, and they are scheduled for a status hearing March 3.

According to documents in the case, witnesses told police that Currie was driving along East State Street when he saw Austin and decided to stop the car and start a fight. During the fight, witnesses said, Austin broke the windshield of Currie’s car. And in return, Currie broke the rear windshield of Austin’s car. Austin then went into a residence in the 900 block of East State Street, and Currie drove away.

Witnesses said that after driving away, Currie called Bartley and told him about the altercation. Currie then picked up Bartley from Monmouth Street, and they drove back to see Austin. And during the drive, according to witnesses, Bartley stated that he was going to “spray the house,” meaning that he was going to shoot up the house.

Witnesses said that when they arrived at the house, Bartley exited the vehicle, walked up to the apartment, opened the door and started arguing with Austin. Then moments later, according to witnesses, Bartley shot Austin once in the chest.

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