Self-confessed Trenton killer to testify at co-defendant’s murder trial
An accomplice who facilitated the September 2016 shooting death of 19-year-old Lance Beckett has pleaded guilty while the alleged triggerman in the case is being tried on murder charges.
Quashawn Emanuel, 19, has admitted his role in the homicide under a plea deal that requires he testify against alleged triggerman Mada Eoff, 18, of Trenton, whose murder trial kicked off Tuesday with opening statements.
Eoff, who is 6-foot-4 and 195-pounds, appeared calm when a prosecutor emphasized the defendant’s height and braided hairstyle. He looked confident when a public defender suggested the state has no scientific or physical evidence to win a conviction.
“Mada Eoff shot Lance Beckett three times,” Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Tim Ward told the jury in his opening salvo. “Mada Eoff murdered Lance Beckett.”
The slaying occurred during the afternoon of Sept. 18, 2016, with Trenton Police arriving on the scene about 2:50 p.m. to discover Beckett’s dying body lying face down in the grass along East Stuyvesant Avenue. One shot struck him in the neck, another shot struck him in the left shoulder and the kill shot entered through his back and exited through his chest, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, authorities said.
Surveillance footage in the area shows Beckett and three other individuals interacting with one another minutes before the grisly murder, according to Ward. Prosecutors say the three culprits were co-defendants Eoff, Emanuel and Omar Kennedy, 36, of Trenton, all of whom have been indicted on murder charges and weapons offenses in connection with the homicide.
Police arrested Eoff and Emanuel several days after the slaying and arrested Kennedy three weeks later. Eoff was initially prosecuted as a 17-year-old juvenile, but authorities waived him to adult court last April and placed him on pretrial detention. He turned 18 last July.
Public defenders Amber Forrester and Jessica Lyons represented Eoff as his trial commenced Tuesday with opening statements before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier.
Forrester described her client as an “innocent young man accused of murder” and said the state’s “entire case relies on one witness” — co-defendant Quashawn Emanuel — who she painted as an unreliable witness.
“Mada Eoff was innocent when he woke up this morning,” Forrester told the jury in her Tuesday opening, adding her client will be exonerated as an innocent man if and when the jury returns a verdict of not guilty.
Eoff’s jury of nine men and five women is diverse, but none of the jurors appear to be black. Eoff, an African-American, is the tall young male with braids in a blue sweatshirt caught on video mingling with Beckett minutes before the murder, prosecutors said.
A grand jury indicted the trio of Eoff, Emanuel and Kennedy on June 29, 2017. Eoff and Kennedy maintain their innocence, while Emanuel has pleaded guilty Dec. 13, 2017, to a downgraded count of second-degree manslaughter committed recklessly.
The plea deal requires Emanuel to testify against Eoff. In return, the state will dismiss Emanuel’s weapons offenses and ask a judge to sentence him to eight years of incarceration under the No Early Release Act.
Emanuel and Kennedy both remain locked up at the Mercer County Correction Center on $1 million full bond or cash bail, while Eoff is being held without bail on allegations he unlawfully possessed a handgun and used it for the purpose of murdering Beckett.
Kennedy is represented by pool attorney Steven Lember and is scheduled for a pretrial conference 1:30 p.m. Jan 29 before Mercer County Superior Court Judge Peter Warshaw.
Emanuel is represented by private defense attorney Ross Gigliotti and is scheduled to be sentenced March 23 before Warshaw.