Judge tosses charges against suspected Route 29 killers
Well, they didn’t know the car was stolen.
That’s the most that can be said at this point for William “Bill Bill” Mitchell and Andre Romero, the suspected Route 29 killers on trial for allegedly shooting 23-year-old Daquan Dowling to death while they motored down the highway in Trenton in January 2012.
A judge dismissed counts of receiving stolen property against each man, after prosecutors conceded there was not enough evidence that they knew they were rolling around in a stolen Chrysler Sebring the day of the Jan. 30, 2012 murder.
The car was lifted outside a troubled Trenton bar by a man named Louis Alvarado, who later pleaded guilty to as much. He turned over the keys to Anthony Marks, one of four men originally charged with the murder of Dowling.
The two suspected killers still face serious charges of murder and weapons offenses, which could send them away for life.
And prosecutors said they believe Mitchell fired the fatal shot, which struck Dowling in the head and killed him instantly. Assistant Prosecutor James Scott based that on ballistics at the scene and a detective’s testimony at trial.
Scott said Romero’s lone slug was stopped by the car frame, otherwise it would have potentially been a kill shot. He said save for his gun jamming, nothing would have stopped Romero.
That notwithstanding, attorneys for both men asked Judge Anthony Massi for a directed verdict on the remaining counts. Massi is expected to issue an order sometime Friday.
But as defense attorneys Patrick O’Hara and Christopher Campbell know, getting murder and weapons charges dismissed against their clients at this late stage is a long shot.
Campbell said it was pure speculation, unsupported by evidence, that Mitchell filed the fatal shot.
O’Hara, Romero’s attorney, asked the judge to charge the jury on lesser included counts of manslaughter and aggravated assault – even though Dowling died.
He said testimony supported the lesser charge of aggravated assault, because the jury could infer the alleged shooters didn’t plant to kill anyone and intended to “frighten the driver.”
“This was a spur-of-the moment thing,” O’Hara said. “And it wasn’t perfect.”
The judge didn’t go along with it, after hearing from two men who were in the car with Mitchell and Romero.
They told jurors they saw the men open fire on a white Ford Taurus carrying Dowling and passenger Morris Satchel, an apparent rival known on the streets as “Poopie.”
Getaway drive Marks, who copped a 10-year plea for weapons offenses for his role in the fatal shooting, testified this week that Mitchell said he was going to “tear the car” up after they visited Mitchell’s home and picked up a cache of guns – two .357 handguns and a .45-caliber.
Jamar Square, who was also in the car at the time of the shooting, also pleaded guilty to weapons charges and is hoping he doesn’t go to prison when he is sentenced after the trial.
He maintained he didn’t know guns were in the car and told jurors he was simply getting a ride from family friend Marks after his car got a flat tire. Marks picked him up outside a city bodega after he put on a reggae show for “some females,” he said.
Square claimed that moments before the shooting, as they were motoring toward Route 29, Mitchell and Romero noticed the white Taraus – a car they believed belonged to “Old Boy from South Trenton.”
Square said the men talked in code prior to riddling it with bullets.
Marks claimed the suspected killers recognized the car as belonging to “Poopie.” He didn’t know Poopie’s real name, but The Trentonian found a comment under Satchel’s obituary that referred to him as Poopie.
The apparent shooting was retaliation after Romero’s sister got jumped, Marks said.
Satchel survived the Route 29 shooting, and ensuing car crash, which closed down the highway overnight. But he died months later in an unrelated ATV accident.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday.