Prosecutors: Trenton teen’s accused killer caught on tape

A 16-year-old girl was an unintended target in an ongoing feud between warring factions from the city’s Wilbur section and Jersey Street, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Peter Charles Jr., 18, allegedly belonged to a group from Jersey Street, possibly the “130 boys,” a sort of neighborhood gang.

Peter Charles

Peter Charles

Teenager Ciony Kirkman became unsuspectingly entangled in this dispute when Charles, a teenager with a lengthy and violent juvenile history, allegedly opened fire on a speeding van carrying the young girl and six others, prosecutors said.

Charles, now 18, made his first appearance in adult court at a bail hearing Wednesday after he was waived up in September by family court Judge Lawrence DeBello.

Charles was 17 years old when he was charged with murder, six counts of aggravated assault and weapons offense in connection with the April 24 slaying that claimed Kirkman, a former student at Daylight/Twilight High School who was involved in dance and cheerleading.

Ciony Kirkman (contributed photo)

Ciony Kirkman (contributed photo)

Prosecutors believe they have Charles dead to rights, their evidence consisting of three witnesses and surveillance tapes they contend show the suspect in the area prior to the shooting.

The reasons for the shooting remain speculative.

The beef apparently stemmed from rap music offensive to members of the “130 boys,” Bruce Throckmorton, Charles’ attorney, had previously told The Trentonian.

He has denied his client belongs to a gang or neighborhood group.

If the dispute was deeper than over music, Assistant Prosecutor James Scott did not let on at the hearing. He would not discuss a motive for the shooting.

After the hearing, he said only that Charles targeted one of the other six minors in the stolen Ford Windstar, as it sped down Jersey Street toward Home Avenue.

Charles is accused of using a 22-caliber handgun to fire five, possibly six, at the van, Scott said, citing ballistics.

The fatal shot traveled through the back windshield and struck Kirkman in the head.

“Her brain split in two,” Scott said.

Kirkman was on life support and died two days later at a local hospital.

Throckmorton countered that the van’s windows were tinted and the shooter did not intend to kill Kirkman. He had previously suggested his client had an alibi for the murder andwas misidentified as the shooter.

But Scott said at the hearing that surveillance captured Charles walking toward the shooting scene about a minute or two before gunshots rang out and was shown running away immediately after.

The view from the city camera is “good enough” that it picked up when the first shot was fired, Scott said.

Additionally, a witness in the van identified Charles as the killer and an “independent witness” who was shown surveillance identified Charles on the tape without prompting from authorities, Scott said.

An unrelated investigation also turned up a discarded sweatshirt near the shooting, the prosecutor said.

DNA from one of Charles’ relative was discovered on the sweatshirt, Scott said.

Summing up the case against the city teen as “powerful,” the prosecutor asked the judge to raise bail from $500,000, pointing to Charles’ past legal scrapes as a youngster.

Charles was found delinquent of first- and second-degree crimes that involved a shotgun and a handgun.

He was first arrested in October 2012, at the tender age of 14.

Charged with aggravated assault and robbery, he was found delinquent in juvenile court of aggravated assault and placed on probation.

Later he was charged in another robbery involving a firearm and served time at a New Jersey juvenile detention center.

Judge Peter Warshaw increased bail to $750,000, citing the “extraordinary serious” nature of the charges.

Charles’ next court date was not available.

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