Victim of March house fire dies in hospital, death ruled a homicide

A man who suffered burns during a house fire last month died in the hospital Sunday and his death has been ruled a homicide.

The man, whose identity is still not known, suffered extensive burns during a March 12 house fire that occurred in the 200 block of Elmer Street.

“He passed away on Sunday and a post-mortem examination was conducted Wednesday, but he is still a John Doe,” Lt. Steven Varn said. Read more

Prosecutors hold course through a 10-year journey to a guilty verdict

The moment a jury foreman pronounced Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete guilty of ordering the killing of a gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and the near-strangulation of a gang turncoat Alex Ruiz in 2004, a single question danced in the minds of all those involved in what has become a decade-long ordeal.

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Now that the whodunit aspect is settled, again, will this guilty verdict stand? It’s a fair question considering more than 10 years have elapsed since Negrete and several of his co-conspirators, holed up in his Brunswick Avenue residence, were rounded up by authorities in February 2005. In that time, Negrete had four trials, a span encompassing two Mercer County prosecutors.

Retired prosecutor Joe Bocchini was around for Negrete’s first three trials, which resulted in a hung jury and a guilty verdict, sandwiched around a trial that was scrapped shortly after jury selection. He was at Myrtle Beach Thursday when he received news of the guilty verdict.

“We went through one conviction, and we had the retrials,” Bocchini said, reflecting on the journey to get to this point. “The conviction here is very warranted; it was warranted the first time.

“It was nerve-wracking only to the extent that we knew he was guilty. We knew he deserved to be in jail. It was frustrating to go through the retrials. Negrete is where he belongs and should stay for the remainder of his days.”

While Bocchini had to settle for dialing up his former right-hand man, Acting Prosecutor Angelo Onofri had a firsthand look, seated a row behind Dotson’s family, keeping watch over them as the verdict was read. Read more

Jose ‘Boom Bat’ Negrete found guilty on all counts in fourth murder trial

Latin Kings leader Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete was convicted Thursday for his role in the summer 2004 slaying of gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and botched murder attempt of gang turncoat Alex Ruiz, drawing a presumed close to a case that spanned more than a decade and required several jury panels to decide a verdict.

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Security was tight with a dozen sheriff officers on hand as Dotson’s family and several members of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, including Acting Prosecutor Angelo Onofri, crammed inside the Mercer County courtroom to listen as a jury of eight women and four men who had deliberated for three days returned guilty verdicts to counts of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder against Negrete, the Latin Kings Inca who was on trial for the fourth time for ordering the killing of Dotson to ensure her silence.

The jury also agreed Negrete was guilty of attempted murder related to the near-strangulation of Ruiz, who was ordered handed over by Negrete to the rival Ñetas after his defection to the Latin Kings sparked a war between the factions.

Linda Dotson, the victim’s mother, gasped and embraced a family member as the jury foreman read the guilty verdict. It was a moment the family had lived in 2009 when Negrete was convicted on all charges only to see the appellate court overturn an 80-year sentence because of jury misconduct. They left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.

Negrete remained seated next to his attorney, Jack Furlong, as the verdict was read. Furlong said after the verdict was read he would file a motion for a new trial which will delay sentencing. Judge Pedro Jimenez revoked Negrete’s $2 million bail and set a hearing on the new trial motion for May 29.

If the motion is denied, Furlong plans to appeal. Read more

No verdict yet in ‘Boom Bat’ murder trial, jury to continue deliberations Thursday

TRENTON >> The attorney for a Latin Kings leader on trial for murder did not step foot in a Mercer County courtroom Wednesday, leaving the reins to his young, baby-faced associate, Andrew Ferencevych.

In retrospect, it was as good an indication as any that no verdict was coming in the fourth murder trial of Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete, who is accused of ordering the 2004 murder of gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and botched murder attempt on gang turncoat Alex Ruiz.TRT-L-NEGRETE JOSE 62

The 12-member panel, which received the case Tuesday, was locked in deliberations most of Wednesday, breaking only for lunch. Jurors resume deliberations Thursday morning.

Prosecutors have tried in vain for more than a decade to convict Negrete, who was portrayed at trial as a ruthless leader whose goal was to grow the Trenton tribe of the Latin Kings from a feeble, loosely associated organization into a feared street gang.Read more

Jury deliberations begin in fourth ‘Boom Bat’ trial for 2004 Trenton murder

TRENTON >> Jurors began deliberations in the fourth murder trial of Latin Kings leader Jose Negrete but broke for the day without reaching a verdict.

The 12-member panel, which will decide whether it believes Negrete ordered the 2004 murder of gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and botched murder attempt on gang turncoat Alex Ruiz, was handed the case Tuesday after being charged on the law.

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Judge Pedro Jimenez’s courtroom was devoid of any action for much of the day. Members of Negrete’s family were perched outside the courtroom for part of the day waiting for any indication of a verdict, but it never came. Jimenez dismissed jurors around 4 p.m. and ordered them to return to court Wednesday morning to resume deliberations.Read more

Jose ‘Boom Bat’ Negrete trial wrapping up closing arguments

Latin Kings leader Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete “is not an innocent man,” his attorney said during closing arguments in his client’s fourth murder trial.

“But he is not guilty of the crimes in this indictment,” defense attorney Jack Furlong said Thursday, referring to charges of murder, conspiracy and attempted murder.TRT-L-negrete jose 0560

That distinction was important for Negrete, who is accused of ordering the summer 2004 murder of gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and the botched murder of gang turncoat Alex Ruiz.

The state has tried for the better part of a decade to convict the Latin Kings leader, relying on some of the gang leader’s former henchmen who have testified against him. It believed it had succeeded in 2009 when a jury found Negrete guilty, only to see the appellate court later overturn an 80-year conviction because of jury misconduct.

In his closing, Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Tom Meidt pointed to several late-night phone calls between Negrete and Dotson shortly before she was killed, saying the state believes Negrete was reassuring Dotson nothing was wrong after a beat-up Ruiz showed up at the Chestnut Street home they shared complaining how he was set up by the Latin Kings.

Meidt said the defendant was “sleepwalking” Dotson the same way his henchmen did Ruiz.

Read more

‘Boom Bat’ will not testify in his fourth murder trial

Standing tall before the judge in his pea-colored suit, his hands nestled inside his pockets, Latin King leader Jose Negrete told the court Wednesday he would not testify in his fourth murder trial.

“I’m going to let him run the show,” said Negrete, referring to his attorney, Jack Furlong. Furlong advised his client against taking the stand.TRT-L-NEGRETE JOSE 62

And with that, summations begin Thursday afternoon, and the jury will begin deliberating next week whether Negrete ordered the August 2004 murder of gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and botched murder attempt on gang turncoat Alex Ruiz.

Negrete testified at past trials but said he arrived at his decision not to testify this time around after consulting with Furlong. Moments before Negrete announced his decision, Furlong playfully threatened to sic his client’s mother on him if he changed his mind.

Read more

Trenton man serving jail time indicted in connection with 2006 murder

A Trenton man has been indicted in connection with the 2006 murder of 27-year-old Kevin Thomas.

According to prosecutors in the case, Thomas, of Hamilton, was shot and killed around 4 a.m. on September 3, 2006. He was a passenger in a car that was stopped at a red light at the corner of East State and Chambers streets when a dark-colored SUV pulled up beside him. Someone inside the SUV then fired several shots at the other vehicle, according to prosecutors. Read more

Four Liberian men accused of 2011 killing reject plea deals will see trial together

Four Liberian men accused in the execution-style slaying of Liberian immigrant and U.S. Army veteran Dardar Paye rejected final plea offers from prosecutors calling for 30-year sentences for murder and will be tried together next year, a judge said Tuesday. Read more

Negrete’s old testimony alleges inaccuracies in witness stories, including other gang members

Latin King gang members who testified against their leader couldn’t get his nickname right, let alone a story they gave prosecutors about how they carried out his orders to murder fellow gang members, the defendant said at a past trial.

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete

A jury Thursday heard previous testimony of Jose “Boom Bat” Negrete, who is on trial a fourth time for ordering the murder of gang “queen” Jeri Lynn Dotson and a botched attempt on the life of gang turncoat Alex Ruiz.

In his previous testimony, Negrete said his nickname is “Boom Bap,” a moniker he earned as teenager by beating up a bully. Boom Bap are words that appear in cartoon sound clouds when Batman finishes his opponents, the defendant said.

But Negrete denied ordering his henchmen to “finish” Ruiz or Dotson after she witnessed several gang members lure her platonic roommate away from the Chestnut Street home they shared Aug. 30, 2004.

“I’m not a coward,” Negrete previously testified when asked by his former attorney if he ordered Dotson killed. “That’s some coward s–.” Read more