Jury convicts gunman for murdering U.S. Army vet, stuffing body in car trunk
A 12-member jury has unanimously found Danuweli Keller guilty of a 2011 city murder that left the victim’s body stuffed in the trunk of a car.
Meanwhile, the jury on Thursday could not reach any verdicts against co-defendant Mack Edwards, 31, of Trenton, with the jury deliberating for hours over Edwards’ fate but being hung on all 17 counts at the trial’s conclusion.
Prosecutors say they have a strong case against Edwards and will try him again in hopes of securing a conviction at a future trial. The partial verdict is not exactly what the state was looking for, but the prosecution expressed satisfaction with the jury convicting Keller on the murder charges.
“We’re happy in the sense that Danuweli Keller was found guilty for the execution of Dardar Paye,” Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Gasparian told The Trentonian after the verdict. “We’re glad he will finally be held accountable for the crime.”
Keller, 29, of Hamilton, shot and killed Paye in the basement of a Monmouth Street home in Trenton in January 2011. Paye, 33, was a U.S. Army veteran and Liberian immigrant. After Keller murdered him, Paye’s body was placed in garbage bags and stuffed in the trunk of Buick.
Trenton Police Sgt. Jason Astbury found the body in the trunk on Jan. 16, 2011, following an interstate police chase that began in Trenton and ended on Route 1 in Falls Township, Pennsylvania.
A total of five defendants have been charged with the murder of Paye, including Keller and Edwards. The other co-defendants in the case are Trenton men Phobus Sullivan, 33, Abdutawab Kiazolu, 29, and William D. Brown, 32, and they are all expected to be tried in the near future.
The jury on Thursday was hung on some of the charges against Keller but was firmly convinced of Keller’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the first-degree murder and armed robbery charges. Consequently, Keller faces 30 years to life in prison.
Gasparian said the state will recommend Keller gets hammered with life imprisonment when he is sentenced on Sept. 7.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier presided over the Keller and Edwards murder trial, with defense attorney Peter Abatemarco representing Keller and defense attorney Mark G. Davis representing Edwards.
“The jury took their time,” Davis told The Trentonian after the mixed verdict came down. “I think they did a good job reviewing the evidence and coming up with a verdict.”
With the jury convicting Keller on the heaviest charges but being hung on all 17 counts against Edwards, Davis said he expects the state will retry his client.
For a defendant to be found guilty of a criminal charge in a trial by jury, all jurors must unanimously agree that the state has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For a defendant to be found not guilty, all jurors must unanimously agree that the state failed to prove its case in a convincing manner. A hung jury occurs when the jurors deliberate for hours but fail to reach a unanimous agreement over a defendant’s fate.