Attorney for defendant believes he has cracked the Trenton homicide case
Did a dead man order the murder of Enrico Smalley Jr.?
The attorney for a Trenton man accused of gunning down Smalley outside a crime-riddled city bar in July 2014 believes he has cracked the case.
If true, his bombshell allegations would not only exonerate his client, 30-year-old Shaheed Brown, but implicate now-deceased Rodney Sutphin for ordering the murder of Smalley as retribution for another homicide Smalley allegedly committed. One of Smalley’s friends who was at the bar with him the night he was murdered slammed Brown’s attorney in an interview with The Trentonian, saying the suggestion Smalley was killed as payback for another murder is “bull–t.”
Defense attorney Edward Heyburn went public with his allegations Thursday, at a pretrial hearing ahead of his client’s upcoming murder trial, which is slated to start in the fall.
Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson, who has taken over the case for another judge, set the start of trial for October, despite Assistant Prosecutor Brian McCauley’s request to have it delayed until next year.
McCauley disclosed that a close family member has medical issues that require his attention.
Smithson discussed the issue with the attorneys inside his chambers for about 30 minutes before announcing the trial, which had been scheduled to start in September, would be postponed until Oct. 5.
The judge said it wasn’t prudent to have another prosecutor take over the case for McCauley.
Heyburn’s allegations hint at a possible third-party guilt defense. Heyburn had previously released to The Trentonian surveillance from outside La Guira Bar, where Smalley was shot.
The release of the video prompted Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier, who was previously assigned the case, to implement a gag order on the attorneys and seal Brown’s case file from the public purview.
Heyburn contends the video shows a man, known only as “King,” reaching for something tucked in his waistband seconds before Smalley was shot. King, who Heyburn contends is the real killer, was accompanied to the bar by two men, Raesean and Rodney Sutphin, the latter who allegedly ordered the hit as payback, Heyburn said.
Rodney Sutphin, 22, was fatally shot in October, three months after Smalley was killed. His murder remains unsolved, and his family has accused of police of not aggressively investigating because of the victim’s last name.
Raesean Sutphin is locked up in the county jail, charged with attempted murder for a shooting in October 2014 that injured two people.
McCauley said at this point there is no negotiated plea deal between prosecutors and Raesean Sutphin that would require him to testify against Brown.
The prosecutor, however, did say Raesean Sutphin is no stranger to the system.
“He’s a Sutphin,” he said. “Of course, he’s in the system.”
Heyburn said he has tried without success to obtain from prosecutors police records related to Rodney Sutphin’s murder as well as the attempted murder case against Raesean, hoping it would help piece together the circumstances he believes led to the Smalley slaying.
Billmeier previously ruled the police records would not be turned over because they were not relevant, but Heyburn has asked Smithson to reconsider the ruling in light of a statement Raesean Sutphin provided police.
His name appears on a five-page witness list, and he could be called to the stand to testify, Heyburn said.
Additionally, Heyburn told the court he had contacted one of Smalley’s friends, a man named John “Buck” Meyers.
Heyburn said during a two-minute phone call Meyers mentioned giving a statement to former Mercer County Detective Joseph Itri in which he told the detective he did not known anything about Smalley’s murder but had information allegedly implicating Smalley in another murder, the details of which remain scant.
Itri apparently stopped Meyers, turned off the recording and asked him to give a second statement about the murder Smalley allegedly committed. Heyburn has requested that prosecutors produce the statement.
“There’s a nexus between Enrico Smalley’s actions and the people who were within feet of him when he was murdered,” Heyburn said. “Essentially, it was a retaliatory action.”
The judge was taken aback by Heyburn’s allegation.
“What kind of world are we living in?” Smithson said. “My god.”
McCauley said he was unaware of any statement implicating Smalley in a murder, but said he would check with Itri, who has been transferred to Essex County. The prosecutor said that by contacting Meyers, Brown’s attorney has now made himself a witness in the case.
Meyers said Brown’s attorney is making up his allegations whole cloth, and he never provided police with a statement implicating Smalley in another murder. He said he considered Smalley “a little brother.”
“[Heyburn] is getting paid to represent his client,” Meyers said. “He’s going to say whatever he’s got to say to get his client free. It’s bull–t. That’s what I think. He’s saying, ‘Oh, well John Meyers is saying that Enrico got killed because of something he did.’ I never said that. I said, ‘Enrico was up there and [he] had a situation with these people. I never said Enrico murdered one of them peoples and they came back and they killed him. I said they had a disagreement in a bar which led to his killing.
“That (stuff) right there, it’s crazy. He’s putting me out there in the wrong type of way. The police know that. They’re fighting the case against him. I don’t know if his client is guilty or not guilty. But at the end of the day, by doing that, it makes his client look guilty by trying to put me on the bus.”
While shocking, Heyburn’s allegations come as no surprise. Brown’s case has been chock full of startling revelations and jousting between the attorneys.
Earlier this year, McCauley said the murder weapon used to kill Smalley, which has not been recovered, was linked with a separate murder in Essex County and two shootings in Trenton. McCauley did not outright accuse Brown of being involved in the Essex County murder but said it occurred around the same time Brown was believed to be in the county.
The weapon was linked to those crimes through a database of images of spent bullets and shell casings, known to New Jersey State Police as the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, or NIBIN.
That evidence, however, has been deemed unreliable because police cannot make a definitive ballistics comparison without the murder weapon and will not be allowed at trial.