Witness was unsettled by suspected killer’s black glove on night of Trenton murder

Phillip Hedgepath is “street smart” so he was suspicious when he saw three men with black gloves lurking outside of the crime-ridden bar where Enrico Smalley Jr. was fatally shot last year. He had wised up after getting shot himself.

Prosecutors say this surveillance photo shows Shaheed Brown (left) and Enrico Smalley Jr. minutes before Smalley was gunned down outside of La Guira Bar on July 12, 2014.

Prosecutors say this surveillance photo shows Shaheed Brown (left) and Enrico Smalley Jr. minutes before Smalley was gunned down outside of La Guira Bar on July 12, 2014.

“I’m gonna remember that to a T,” said Hedgepath, who stood on the side of La Guira Bar, near Poplar Street, in the early-morning hours of July 12, 2014. “You see someone with black gloves, you immediately know something ain’t right, something about to go down.”

Hedgepath testified Monday suspected killer Shaheed Brown, known as “Sha,” was one of the men with a black glove in his pocket shortly before Smalley was gunned down. He could not identify the two other men with black gloves, which he believed people used to avoid leaving fingerprints.

While he was unsettled by the black gloves, Hedgepath did not call 911 to alert police.

Edward Heyburn, Brown’s attorney, downplayed his client’s black glove during his cross examination of Hedgepath, asking if the witness was “familiar with driver’s gloves.”

“I’ve never seen driver’s gloves,” Hedgepath said.

The glove wasn’t exactly Isotoner. But unless Brown is a car enthusiast or it was Christmas in July, the black glove could be a huge problem.

Footage obtained by The Trentonian appears to show Brown wearing the black glove on his right hand moments before he and Smalley stepped out of frame of surveillance cameras outside the bar.

Shaheed Brown

Shaheed Brown

Jurors were shown numerous angles of surveillance footage, guided through it minute by minute by Joseph Itri, the State Police detective who investigated Smalley’s murder.

The footage gave a more complete look of the events leading up to Smalley’s death than a snippet The Trentonian had obtained months ago from Heyburn, who held it out as proof of his client’s innocence and claimed it depicted a man identified as Alvie “King” Vereen reaching into his waistband seconds before Smalley was shot.

Brown, sporting a beard and a do-rag on his head, appeared clad in a white T-shirt, shorts and white sneakers on surveillance. He walked up to the bar, accompanied by two men, Michael Beckett and Vereen, around 1:17 a.m.

He was captured in the vestibule of La Guira Bar, an area separate from the bar where patrons could purchase packaged liquors. Itri pointed out to jurors Brown’s hands were visible and he did not appear to have the black glove on at that point.

Brown walked out of the bar not long after and was seen speaking to a group of men that included Beckett near Poplar Street. He walked down the street with the group with his hand in his pocket, appearing for the first time, Itri said, with the glove on his right hand.

Surveillance showed Brown speaking to a man identified as Rodney Sutphin. Then Brown walked back toward the bar. Inside the bar, Smalley was greeted by a man named Antwan Green, who handed him a cigarette.

Smalley stepped out of the bar and walked down the sidewalk with Brown around 1:21 am. They were bracketed by two men in the front, Rasean Sutphin, who is wearing a bucket hat, and a man police never identified.

Seconds later, Vereen and now-deceased Rodney Sutphin, follow behind. Rodney Sutphin appeared to walk in the opposite direction as Vereen stepped off screen for four seconds. Itri said Rodney Sutphin’s reaction was the “pinpoint indicator” of the shooting.

As people scattered, Brown ran from the area where Smalley’s body dropped to the pavement, Hedgepath said.

Hedgepath did not see Brown with a handgun, nor did he didn’t notice if Brown was accompanied by anyone. He did not know Vereen or Rodney Sutphin.

Women wailed when they caught a glimpse of Smalley’s body, sprawled on the pavement, a bullet between his eyes. “Oh my god,” they cried upon seeing him. “Rico.”

Hedgepath arrived at the bar around 11 p.m., staying until after 1 a.m. Accompanied by a female companion whose name he longer remembered, Hedgepath sipped shots of cognac from a cup outside the bar where a crowd had gathered.

Unlike some of the 49 people who were at the bar when Smalley was murdered, Hedgepath cooperated with authorities. He was motivated partly by self-preservation.

“I was on camera,” he said. “I did give ‘Sha’ dap the night of the murder.”

Hedgepath, who has several felony convictions for drugs, forgery and non-violent crimes, also cut a deal with prosecutors this year, pleading guilty to drug charges for probation. Had he not testified against Brown, he would have faced three years in state prison.

Hedgepath’s testimony is critical for prosecutors who are trying to prove Brown had reason to kill Smalley.

When he was interviewed by Itri, Hedgepath discussed a “little scrap” between Brown and Smalley’s people he witnessed the week before Smalley was killed. Brown was inside the bar counting his money. Smalley was not at the bar when the altercation broke out, Hedgepath said.

Brown appeared “like he was getting jumped,” Hedgepath said, as bar security broke up the fight and people filed out. The trial resumes Tuesday with the continuation of Itri’s testimony.

blog comments powered by Disqus