Judge pulls Trenton murder trial into closed session

Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson appears committed to trying the case of two men accused of fatally shooting convicted drug dealer Tracy Lamont Crews at sidebar and in judge’s chambers.

The murder trial of William Brown and Nigel Joseph Dawson was stalled this week by undisclosed evidentiary issues significant enough that Smithson suspended proceedings until Tuesday, when a jury is expected to resume hearing evidence in the Sept. 12, 2008 slaying of Crews inside his Whittaker Avenue home.

This came a day after Smithson dismissed the jury early and later notified jurors that they weren’t required to return to court until Friday.

All that changed Thursday morning, when Smithson summoned Assistant Prosecutor Al Garcia and defense attorneys Steven Lember and Edward Hesketh into his chambers. Read more

Trial for 2008 murder of Tracey Crews details alleged betrayal and botched robbery by best man

Tracey Crews scooped his sleeping daughter out of the back of his double-parked vehicle outside the Whittaker Avenue residence he shared with his new wife.

The couple was just starting off their life together. They had been married for a little more than a month and planned to move to a new apartment. Their world came crashing down late Sept. 12, 2008, when Crews was killed during an armed home invasion.

The murder remained unsolved for nearly three years until investigators cracked the case thanks to a dying declaration and DNA evidence linking one of the defendants on trial for Crews’ murder to a ski mask used in the crime. Read more

Mental health counselors knew South Broad Street apartment was hotspot for crime

A passerby stops to view a makeshift memorial in honor of Rodney Burke on Hamilton Avenue. Nov. 6, 2014 - Penny Ray

A passerby stops to view a makeshift memorial in honor of Rodney Burke on Hamilton Avenue. Nov. 6, 2014 - Penny Ray

Counselors working at Greater Trenton Behavioral Healthcare knew that a building on South Broad Street was a hotspot for illegal activity months before they chose to move Rodney Burke into an apartment there.

“The counselor said, ‘Now looking back, we think we failed him,’” his sister Crystal Burke said.

Rodney Burke, 48, was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds inside his South Broad Street apartment around 2 a.m. on Nov. 4; he later died at the hospital.

According to his family, Burke was diagnosed with schizophrenia and also had a “lower than average” IQ. He was raised in New Brunswick. For about a year and a half, though, Burke lived in city housing provided by Greater Trenton Behavioral Healthcare (GTBHC). He used to live in an apartment building on Hamilton Avenue occupied by at least seven other people who are in transitional housing programs. During that time, though, Burke and the other occupants of the building were repeatedly victimized by street hustlers who took advantage of their disabilities. Then, about a month before his death, Burke was moved to the 1000 block of South Broad Street.

According to police documents obtained by The Trentonian, on July 16, 2014, a GTBHC counselor named Len Baum and a man who lived in the exact building where Burke was later moved to found guns and drug paraphernalia in the apartment. The items did not belong to the man, according to documents, and he told police that he was moving out of the apartment because he “didn’t feel safe.” Read more

Mixed verdict in trial for attempted murder of Orlando “Coco” Sanchez who was later murdered

Family members of a now-deceased Trenton man left the courtroom disgusted and with one lingering question after a jury returned a mixed-bag verdict late Thursday in the attempted murder trial of reputed Latin Kings gang member Juan Colon.

Barbara Cruz, aunt of 28-year-old Orlando “Coco” Sanchez, wanted to know why, if Colon had nothing to do with her nephew’s death, did he fly to Florida days after Sanchez was gunned down on a city street in September 2012. Colon was on trial for Sanchez’s attempted murder, which prosecutors say happened two weeks before Sanchez was gunned down on a city street.

Colon was considered a person of interest, but was never charged for the murder, which remains unsolved.

The only explanation from Colon, 46, who didn’t testify, came from his attorney, who said his client visited family members. Read more

Shaheed Brown pleads innocent to charges of shooting and killing Enrico Smalley outside of La Guira Bar

A city man accused in the July shooting death of Enrico Smalley Jr. pleaded not guilty to murder charges and rejected an offer from prosecutors calling for a 45-year prison term during a contentious status hearing Wednesday, highlighted by renewed bickering about discovery issues from attorneys involved in the case.

Shaheed Brown, 30, was indicted in November on counts of first-degree murder and weapons offense in connection with the July 12 death of Smalley, who was shot multiple times outside of La Guira Bar.

Brown’s attorney, Edward Heyburn said his client didn’t need time to mull the offer, which was rejected outright, and he asked a judge to fast-track the case for trial.

Heyburn spent the remainder of the hearing renewing gripes about outstanding discovery he said hasn’t been turned over by Assistant Prosecutor Brian McCauley. He wanted names of all bar patrons who were present the night Smalley was shot, presumably so he can build a defense that appears to rely on the notion that someone other than Brown pulled the trigger that night. Read more

Jury still deliberating in Orlando Sanchez attempted murder case

A reputed member of the Latin Kings street gang elected not to testify in his attempted murder trial, but prosecutors are hoping an untaped confession he made to detectives inside a Florida interrogation room is enough to convince a jury, which began deliberations Wednesday, to reach a guilty verdict.

Juan Colon, 46, was arrested in 2012 by U.S Marshals in Florida where he fled after he learned he was a person of interest in the murder of 28-year-old Orlando Sanchez.

Colon is not on trial for Sanchez’s murder, which remains unsolved, but rather an attempt he allegedly made on Sanchez’s life Aug. 25, 2012 during a senseless dispute at Sanchez’s Elm Street home.

That’s when, witnesses testified, Colon fired a single shot at Sanchez while he fled up the stairs. Colon became enraged because his sleeping girlfriend refused to come downstairs. Read more

Trenton man arrested in Florida in connection with Patrick Walker murder

A city man wanted for the murder of Patrick Walker was arrested Friday in a hotel in Florida.

Walker, 39, was gunned down outside of La Guira Bar near the corner of North Clinton Avenue and Poplar Street around 2 a.m. on Dec. 13. He later died at the hospital and became the second person to be shot and killed outside the bar last year.

Anthony Concepcion

Anthony Concepcion

Anthony Concepcion, 22, was arrested Friday by the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, which was notified of his whereabouts by detectives working the case in Trenton.

Prosecutors say Concepcion was found in a hotel in Altamont Springs, Florida. He is being held at the Seminole County Jail where he awaits extradition to NJ. Concepcion’s bail is set at $500,000 cash or bond.

Trenton murder suspect Randy Washington faces additional charges for armed robbery

Two city men were sitting on the front porch of their city residence in the evening hours of Oct. 16, 2014, when they were approached by a city man clad in a gray sweater, wielding a .45-caliber automatic handgun.

Randy Kareem Washington

Randy Kareem Washington

The two didn’t know it at the time, but the unknown black male was Randy Kareem Washington, 33, a man authorities say terrorized the city during a fourth-month crime spree that claimed the lives of 43-year-old George Jamison and Silas Johnson, 64.

Washington, charged in five armed robberies and the shooting deaths of the two city men, was charged Tuesday with a sixth armed robbery and an additional count of attempted murder related to the Oct. 16 holdup outside the Centre Street residence. He is being held at a county jail on $2.1 million bail on the murder charges.

Read more

One of two suspects in murder of James Austin to file motion to dismiss

One of two city men charged in the shooting death of James Austin, the son of a veteran city cop, plans to file a motion to dismiss an indictment charging him with murder, his attorney said.

Andrew Mark Ferencevych, an attorney for Raheem Currie, 22, unveiled plans at a Monday status hearing but didn’t specify the ground the motion would be based. His client has entered a not guilty plea and has been offered a plea deal that calls for a 10-year sentence if he pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Read more

Trenton teen indicted in connection with Shamere Melvin murder

A grand jury returned a five-count indictment Wednesday charging a city teen with the murder of Shamere Melvin, who was gunned down in December 2013.

Melvin, 17, was shot and killed in the 300 block of North Clinton Avenue around 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2013. When police arrived on-scene, they found him lying on the sidewalk against a chain-link fence suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. Melvin was pronounced dead at the scene. Read more