Bail held at $750K for 17-year-old accused of killing other teen

Teenager Alberto Lopez stared at a county prosecutor befuddled by the accusation that he staged a fake drug deal on the night of Dec. 18, 2013 in order to rob another teenager.

Prosecutors said Lopez, who was 16 at the time, ended up shooting 17-year-old Shamere Melvin in the head during the botched robbery shortly after 8:30 p.m. on the 300 block of North Clinton Avenue. Melvin died at the scene. Lopez, 17, is being tried as an adult on charges of murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon.

At times during his Thursday bail hearing, Lopez shook his head while Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Meidt laid out the “strong case” against the defendant, which is buttressed by the defendant’s evolving recollection of what happened the night in question. Lopez has changed his story three times, first telling authorities he never met up with Melvin, prosecutors said. Later he acknoweldged he was in Trenton but implicated a distant cousin he knew only by the nickname “Mooch.”

But Meidt said the state has phone records and Facebook messages that show Lopez and his cousin arranged through a mutual female friend to meet with Melvin around 8:30 p.m. near Clinton Avenue.

According to prosecutors, Melvin was picked up from his house by his girlfriend and a third person. They drove to a spot on Clinton Avenue and met with Lopez and his cousin, who was not identified in court.

Once there, Lopez balked on the drug deal, apparently spooked because there were “too many people” present, Meidt said. The parties got back into their cars and drove away.

Within a few minutes, Melvin received another phone call saying the drug deal was back on, prosecutors said. The parties met near the same spot. This time Lopez and his cousin walked alone with Melvin down the street for about a block while the drivers waited in the car.

When shots rang out, the witnesses drove away, leaving Lopez and his cousin stranded in the area.

Lopez was arrested by authorities a few days later near the corner of Walnut and Chestnut Avenue. His initial bail was set at $750,000 full cash during a juvenile proceeding.

Jenna Casper, Lopez’s attorney, said there was no legal basis for the full cash bail and asked Judge Robert Billmeier to set her client’s bail to $500,000 cash or bond. She said she was at a “disadvantage” to argue for her client since she hadn’t received evidence from discovery because her client hasn’t been indicted on the charges.

She questioned the credibility of witness statements and said anything her client told police could be suppressed following a Miranda hearing since he is a juvenile and entitled to have a parent present during his interrogation.

“We don’t really have a lot of information right now,” Casper said.

Billmeier ordered Lopez’s bail set at $750,000 cash or bond.

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