Justice slowly prevails in 2011 Trenton murder of U.S. Army veteran Dardar Paye

(From left) Mack Edwards, Abdutawab Kiazolu, Danuweli Keller, Phobus Sullivan and William D. Brown

(From left) Mack Edwards, Abdutawab Kiazolu, Danuweli Keller, Phobus Sullivan and William D. Brown

The family of slain U.S. Army veteran Dardar Paye, whose body was stuffed inside the trunk of a car after being murdered execution style in 2011, is close to getting full and total justice for their loss.

In addition to Danuweli Keller being convicted in the case and sentenced to 61 years of incarceration, three other co-defendants have recently pleaded guilty for their roles in the crime and the fifth co-defendant is already serving a 50-year prison sentence for killing another victim in an unrelated case. 

Phobus Sullivan, 34, and Mack Edwards, 32, both pleaded guilty Dec. 8, 2017, to first-degree kidnapping and were each sentenced last Friday to 11 years of incarceration to be followed by five years of parole supervision. The remaining counts of the indictment against Sullivan and Edwards, including the murder and robbery charges, were dismissed. Both of them were awarded several years of jail credit going back to their arrests on Jan. 16, 2011, according to court records.

Sullivan was already in state prison serving a 20-year aggravated manslaughter sentence for shooting and killing 21-year-old Andrew Leonard in December 2010, and Edwards took his case to trial last year and got no resolution as a jury deadlocked on all charges against him and failed to reach any verdicts.

Abdutawab Kiazolu, 29, pleaded guilty Dec. 22, 2017, to a one-count accusation charging him with second-degree accomplice liability in disturbing or desecrating human remains. He was sentenced last Friday to 10 years of incarceration and awarded 2,567 days of jail credit for being in custody from his arrest on Jan. 16, 2011, to Jan. 25, 2018, without any gaps in time. Kiazolu “has no history of prior delinquency or criminal activity or has led a law-abiding life for a substantial period of time before the commission of the present offense,” Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier said in his judgment of conviction.

Billmeier sentenced Sullivan, Edwards and Kiazolu to state prison last Friday after accepting their negotiated plea agreements, which he said appeared to be “fair and in the interest of justice” in his judgment of conviction.

The case remains active against co-defendant William D. Brown, 33, who is already serving a 50-year sentence in state prison for murdering 23-year-old Tracy Crews in September 2008. Brown is scheduled to appear in court 1:30 p.m. Feb. 23 before Billmeier for a status conference.

Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Gasparian has handled the case on behalf of the state. She won the jury trial murder convictions against Keller, 30, last summer. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and robbery as well as second-degree possession of a firearm for an unlawful purpose, third-degree resisting arrest, fourth-degree tampering with physical evidence and third-degree witness tampering. Billmeier sentenced Keller on Sept. 7, 2017, with 61 years of incarceration for his vicious crimes against the U.S. military veteran.

Paye, 33, was an Army vet, father of two sons and a Liberian immigrant. One of his sisters, Elizabeth Paye, spoke at Keller’s sentencing last year and talked about the hurt of losing her brother while also expressing that she forgives Keller.

Dardar Paye

Dardar Paye

“Mr. Keller, you took someone so special and dear to my heart,” Elizabeth Paye said. “By the grace of God, I’ve been holding on. … I forgive you. You need to forgive yourself.”

Keller lured Paye into a Monmouth Street home in Trenton in January 2011. Once inside the house, the 33-year-old Paye was forcibly whisked into the basement at gunpoint and bound and gagged with duct tape. After robbing Paye of his belongings, Keller finished him off with a shot to the head and directed Paye’s body to be placed in garbage bags and stuffed in the trunk of Paye’s Buick.

An interstate police chase soon transpired in which Keller and the other guilty co-defendants were arrested in Pennsylvania, with Trenton Police Sgt. Jason Astbury finding Paye’s body in the trunk on Jan. 16, 2011.

Brown was arrested on a later date on allegations he aided Keller in the grisly murder plot.

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