3 men charged in murder of Trenton teen Shaela Johnson

A brutal murder case has finally been solved.

Three defendants have been charged in connection with the November 2018 slaying of 19-year-old Shaela Johnson and the subsequent torching of the suspected getaway vehicle.

Nazier Francois (left) and Keith Hamilton are two of the three defendants charged in connection with the November 2018 murder of 19-year-old Trenton woman Shaela Johnson.

Nazier Francois (left) and Keith Hamilton are two of the three defendants charged in connection with the November 2018 murder of 19-year-old Trenton woman Shaela Johnson.

Nazier “Fredo” Francois and Watson “Boone” George have each been charged with first-degree accomplice liability felony murder while the third defendant, Keith S. Hamilton, has been charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated arson and fourth-degree conspiracy to destroy physical evidence.

Francois, 20, of Trenton, and George, 19, of Ewing, are accused of being the gunmen who shot and killed Johnson in broad daylight. The victim was shot at least 14 times by two gunmen who sprayed up the 800 block of Stuyvesant Avenue outside of a deli around 2:15 p.m. Nov. 27, 2018. She was on probation at the time of her violent death.  

Shaela Johnson was murdered in Trenton Tuesday.

Shaela Johnson was murdered in Trenton Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.

Hamilton, 21, of Trenton, is accused of aiding and abetting Francois and George in the plot to set the getaway vehicle on fire following the grisly homicide.

Authorities say the 2012 Nissan Maxima used by the alleged killers was stolen out of Hamilton on Nov. 19, 2018. Police later found the car engulfed in flames near the intersection of East Howell and Franklin streets not long after the deadly shooting. Officials say the fire was lit intentionally.

Charging documents

Authorities on April 3 filed separate complaint warrants charging Francois, George and Hamilton in connection with the murder of Johnson and the subsequent arson that destroyed a Nissan.

Francois and George face 18 criminal offenses, including first-degree accomplice liability murder and numerous weapons offenses. Hamilton has been hammered with six offenses charging him as an accomplice to arson and evidence tampering, according to court records.

Francois has been incarcerated at the Mercer County Correction Center without bail since April 5 following his arrest last Thursday. A Superior Court judge on Wednesday ordered Francois to be detained on pretrial detention, records show. Francois is represented by defense attorney Mark G. Davis.

Court records show George has retained John Furlong as his defense attorney effective Wednesday in connection with the murder case. George has another pending case on his rap sheet, for Trooper Chris Talar of the New Jersey State Police arrested George Feb. 21 in Ewing, charging him with weapons offenses, receiving stolen property and unlawful possession of drugs, records show.

Hamilton has been in jail since March 8 for allegedly violating probation. He pleaded guilty in a weapons case last year and was sentenced to five years of probation, according to public records. Hamilton is represented by public defender Nicole Carlo in the murder case and has a detention hearing scheduled for Friday.

While three people have been charged in connection with the homicide and arson effective April 3, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office has not immediately announced the charges against the trio. The office has released some information about Francois and Hamilton but has not divulged any details about George’s alleged role in the slaying as of Wednesday.

Sources say Johnson appeared to be the target of the grisly shooting, as one gunman stood over her and fired a few rounds while she was on the ground, striking her in the arms, chest and head. Video shows a second gunman chase a second victim down the street, but it was unclear whether that person was struck by gunfire.

Johnson was reportedly taken to the hospital via a pickup truck, rushed into emergency surgery and later pronounced dead. She was actually one of six people arrested in April 2017 following the attempted killing of Zaire Jackson, who in February 2017 was acquitted of murder charges in connection with the 2012 shooting death of Irvin “Swirv” Jackson.

Johnson and others were charged with weapons offenses after police found them in a nearby apartment with guns shortly after Zaire Jackson was shot in the stomach two years ago.

After a judge released the group from jail on the weapons offenses, Johnson was arrested seven months later for allegedly dealing heroin. She was executed in a brazen shooting last November at the age of 19.

The police investigation revealed numerous .45 and .40 caliber shell casings in the intersection of Stuyvesant and Hoffman avenues, as well as on the sidewalk and in the entryway of a deli on Stuyvesant Avenue in Trenton’s West Ward, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

Area surveillance footage showed two males exiting a Nissan Maxima and firing at the victim. Police located the vehicle engulfed in flames at the intersection of Howell and Franklin streets a few hours later, authorities confirmed in a news release.

The case remains under investigation. Anyone with additional information is urged to contact the Mercer County Homicide Task Force at (609) 989-6406. Information can also be emailed to mchtftips@mercercounty.org.

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