Articles Posted in Murder

When police responded to a 911 call made by an agitated North Miami woman whose husband was murdered while playing with the couple’s 20 month old son the previous month, they found the bullet riddled body of Ilam Nissim who had been shot numerous times by the 911 caller, Janepsy Mesa Carballo.

Carballo, 35, first called police emergency to report a battery, but called again a short time later telling the dispatcher that she shot an intruder.

When police arrived at the scene, she told them that she was in the process of transporting furniture out of her home located on NW 12 Avenue in North Miami, while packing to move. When she went back into the house to get more items she found Nissim suddenly appearing in a hallway. She went on to say that Nissim grabbed her by her blouse; ripping it, and demanded to know the whereabouts of a warehouse where her late husband stored his possessions. She explained to police that she then watched him turn his head and body in a threatening manner, leading her to believe that he was reaching for a gun. Believing her life to be in danger, she ran into a room of the house to retrieve a gun of her own and shot him six times. She went on to say that she feared for her safety and the welfare of her son, believing Nissim had intentions of harming them.

The autopsy revealed that the six gunshots to the back which ultimately killed Nissim were fired while he was either lying on the floor or at the very least in a position where he would have had to be “bent very far over”. No weapon was ever recovered other than the 38-caliber revolver used to shoot Nissim, but at the time police declined to detain Carballo, accepting as factual her plausible account of self-defense.

According to police, her husband, Orlando Mesa was in front of their house the previous month when two men pulled up in a white Toyota Corolla and emptied their guns in his direction as well as that of his young son. The bullets grazed the toddler and he sustained mostly superficial wounds to his arm and leg. But the elder Mesa was critically injured. While he was lying in the driveway clinging to life, the men returned and finished the job, leaving Mesa dead. A home surveillance video showed the men were dressed in black clothing, their hair each fashioned in dreadlocks. Those same security cameras were out of service on the day that Nissim was killed by Ms. Carballo.

Three days after her husband’s death, Carballo made an impassioned plea in a televised news interview asking the public for help finding her husband’s killers.

According to Carballo, Nissim was her husband’s business partner as well as being a personal friend and spent the entire day of her husband’s homicide at their home. But what type of business the two were actually engaged in is yet to be determined.

Carballo admitted that her husband was a drug dealer in addition to his regular day job as a mechanic. A short time before Mesa’s murder, cops removed two hefty plastic bags of marijuana from his possession in addition to sixteen-thousand dollars in cash. Mr. Mesa was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell but most of the money was given back to Carballo when she was able to confirm that the money was the result of lottery winnings.

But she always believed that Nissim was behind the murder as did the police who considered him a suspect in her husband’s death up until the time she ended his life. Carballo said that her husband gave Nissim $180,000 for a real estate venture, but the money later disappeared and was seemingly stolen.

During the course of their investigation police began to doubt Carballo’s original story of self-defense and arrested her in 2010, two years after the murder was committed. In 2011, despite prosecutors’ complaints she was freed on $850,000 bond and placed under house arrest while she awaited trial.

In 2012, Carballo’s lawyers filed a Stand Your Ground motion which was denied by a Miami Circuit Court Judge after the judge heard a recording chronicled by a confidential informant that was gathered during a federal narcotics probe in an unconnected drug charge at the pain management clinic where Carballo was an employee. The judge listened as Carballo described to the C.I. that the shooting was “an eye for an eye.” and went on to say that she wanted Nissim’s daughter “to grow up without a father”… just like her son would now have to. She also told the C.I. in the recording that she shot Nissim because she believed the police would never be able to arrest him.

In a statement explaining her decision to deny the Stand Your Ground motion the judge stated that “The inescapable conclusion is that the defendant lured the victim to the home and killed him… The taped conversation between the defendant and the disclosed confidential source is compelling, incapable of being ignored, downplayed or interpreted in any other manner but one of revenge.”

Once the stand your ground possibility was canned, the trial became a clash between the defense’s continued declaration of self-defense and the prosecutions charge that it was a revenge killing.

Before Nissim’s murder, even though she was now a prime suspect, police actually pressed Carballo to get close to the man she believed killed her husband and attempt to seek out information that may implicate him for the murder. So she nurtured a relationship with him, constantly calling and sending him text messages as well as visiting the home of his family. On the day of his murder phone records showed that she called him three times. So was she actually assisting police and afraid for her life or planning an execution?

When she purchased a gun from a Bass Pro Shop the clerk asked her what type she wanted to which she answered “one that won’t miss.”
In opening statements of her second-degree murder trial her attorney said “Janepsy Carballo committed no crimes.” Also during her trial, she testified on her own behalf trying to solidify her claim of self-defense by telling the jury that “In my mind, he was chasing me… His people, as he called it, were chasing me.”

But according to the prosecutor, reading from a transcript, on the day of his death she called him to come to her house to help her move expensive stereo equipment. The prosecutor told the jury that Carballo’s house alarm wasn’t armed, her front door was left open and the two dogs she owned, one of them a pit bull were locked up when Nissim arrived at the house signifying she apparently wasn’t too fearful of him and continued by saying that “She lured him to the house and she shot him six times in the back,” while her defense lawyer tried to exhibit her as a grieving widow, distraught that her husband had been murdered just one month prior to Nissim’s killing,

But the piece of evidence that became the overwhelming damning asset for the prosecution was the recording played for the jury that has previously been mentioned above.

The jury’s deliberations were paused briefly to tell the judge that they were deadlocked, but that was only due to the fact that eleven of them believed she committed first-degree murder with one jury member believing it was a case of murder in the second degree. The judge told them to keep trying until they were all able to agree.

About two hours later the jury reached a unanimous decision of first-degree murder. Moments after the findings of the jury the Miami-Dade Circuit Judge presiding over the case sentenced Carballo to the maximum term of life in prison. Her lawyers plan to appeal the conviction.

Michael B. Cohen Esq. is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida. His law office operates throughout the tri-county area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach in addition to all other counties throughout the State of Florida. He has previously worked for the State as an Assistant State Prosecutor and knows the ins and outs of how the prosecution will move forward in any criminal matter. His vast experience becomes a great asset on his clients’ behalf for all cases involving homicide or any other criminal allegation.

If you, a friend or family member is in need of a strong advocate to fight for your rights against a charge of murder or any other criminal matter contact Mr. Cohen to set up a consultation and find proper direction in the planning of a strong defense.

To view Mr. Cohen’s qualifications and understand what steps you should take if you’re arrested for murder or are charged with any other criminal allegation, click here.

Fred Topous Jr. is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 1999 to the charge of assault with intent to penetrate a thirteen year old minor female who just happened to be his boss’s daughter. He can easily be labelled a career criminal as his records show that he’s either been imprisoned or on parole for all of but three years between the years of 1984 and 2006 for three individual criminal convictions.

But after his release from prison in 2006, Topous hit the lottery… I mean he literally hit the lottery!

In 2008, Topous picked the six winning numbers in Michigan’s $57 million State Lottery. The proceeds netted him a whopping thirty-four million dollars in a one-time lump sum payout.

In some cases, ex-convicts’ who have significant amounts of money or receive windfalls after their release have been ordered to give a substantial amount to the state to cover the expense of their upkeep for the period of time they were incarcerated. But in Topous’s case, the attorney general’s office didn’t pursue any economic payback. So to sum it up Topous got to keep the full payout, his debt to society already paid in full.

But this article isn’t about Fred Topous Jr., not directly at least. This is a story about Murder for Hire.

In late 2009, Topous began a business venture with a well-known area lawyer named Clarence K. Gomery. Together they purchased what was originally a golf course and redeveloped the property into Northern Meadows, a wedding and banquet facility by way of the newly formed company. T&G Real Estate Development LLC that Gomery setup. Before going into private practice Gomery held the positions as an Assistant County Prosecutor as well as County Prosecutor in two separate jurisdictions.

The purchase was made for $500,000 of which Gomery didn’t contribute any funds. However, Gomery had Topous sign a document which was subsequently altered (as decided in a civil suit judgment) to indicate Gomery as fifty percent partner on the property deal. Gomery’s law firm Gomery and Associates, also handed Topous a bill for legal services rendered in the amount of $25,000 which Topous paid. Topous charged that he paid approximately $500,000 and didn’t receive accounting of the purchase of the property. During the course of its operation, T&G Real Estate Development LLC only received one payment of $1500 from Northern Meadows.

Hence, Topous sued Gomery in the 13th Circuit Court on the grounds that he had made several demands requesting the operating accounting and the agreement but received no satisfaction. He hired Chris Cooke to act as his attorney in the case.
According to court documents Gomery had primarily refused to produce any books, records, or accountings. Attorney Cooke charged that Gomery “induced” his client to invest funds in the new business and then “used the business to host weddings for family members at Plaintiff’s expense.” According to court documents the attorney also accused Gomery of “fraudulently editing the operating agreement giving him fifty percent ownership and fifty percent interest in the property with no monetary investment on his own part.” He also claimed that Gomery named Topous as the responsible party for property taxes associated with the property owned by the newly formed LLC.

Last May a jury established that Gomery did indeed induce Mr. Topous into the agreement by violating ethical rules as well as committing malpractice and fraud by altering the operating documents at the same time he collected $25,000 from his new business partner under the pretext of settling a lawsuit which threatened Topous’ brother, Jeff, by making it “go away.”

The jury awarded the property to Topous in full with exception of $13,000 which went to improvements made by Gomery before the lawsuit was filed. Besides losing the property Gomery was ordered to pay Topous $314,000 to cover court costs and attorney’s fees. Additionally, Judge Thomas Power issued a sanctions order against Gomery in November. The following April, Gomery filed for bankruptcy placing his payment obligation on hold. Topous then opposed the stay of debtor payments.

It is not clear exactly when and the reasoning behind it, but at some point Gomery came to the conclusion of having Mr. Topous’s lawyer killed. But it’s easy to speculate that perhaps he felt the lawyer did too good a job which ultimately caused him to wind up in his current dilemma.

But Dale Fisher, the man that Gomery allegedly hired to kill the lawyer said “That he [Gomery] had just lost so much money in the lawsuits and that he was interfering in his bankruptcy and it was destroying his life… It was destroying his wife, his family.”

Gomery knew Fisher when he hired him to do some work at his home and arranged a meet in his office to discuss his “detailed plan”. But what Gomery didn’t count on was that Dale Fisher was a man with a conscience.

Fisher agreed to meet in Gomery’s office on several occasions and then alerted police to Gomery’s plan which would be carried out using him as the instrument. He also told police that he was paid $1000 to purchase a rifle with a payment of $20,000.00 pledged to be paid after the deed was done. In a later interview, Fisher was quoted as saying “I couldn’t fathom why somebody would choose me to commit such a heinous crime.”

Fisher also alerted Cooke to the threat who was stunned at the revelation. He later said that he “went to the authorities and they acted expeditiously to analyze the threat.”

Upon learning of the plot, police had Fisher meet with Gomery at his home while wearing a listening device. They heard Gomery and Fisher discuss the type of weapon that was to be bought and where it was to be purchased, how the murder would go down and where and when it would happen.

Gomery was arrested in mid-July after detectives tracked him down at his daughter’s home; but not until after a drawn out drama and negotiation with police transpired. Police units from five different departments arrived at the scene to assist with the arrest. He was first contacted by police in mid-evening on the evening before his eventual arrest. When a detective first contacted him he allegedly told him that police would need to prepare to “dig in… it was going to be a long night.” After that first exchange, police surrounded his daughter’s house and decided to just wait it out, instead of breaching the home to take him into custody; avoiding an unpleasant and possibly dangerous confrontation.

At approximately 9:30pm, one of the detectives made contact with the suspect by phone and told him they were waiting for him at his own home. He asked him to go there as an arrest warrant had been issued. The detective explained that Gomery told him that he wasn’t prepared to do that “due to the fact that he does not want to sit in jail overnight.” Afterward, Gomery turned off his cell phone while police continued their surveillance and established a perimeter around the home. Attempts by a detective to contact him by way of a bullhorn from the driveway of the house were unsuccessful as Gomery stayed put.

At approximately 4:00am that following morning, police noticed lights being turned on in the house. Not long after that, Gomery’s wife exited the house and entered an SUV in the driveway. She was immediately stopped by police while in a separate SUV, Gomery’s daughter and her passenger being the suspect attempted to leave. When stopped by police his daughter told them they were preparing to drive to the County Jail where her father intended to turn himself in. Gomery was then taken into custody.

He is now facing the felony of soliciting murder. Because the crime involved the carrying of a weapon with unlawful intent he will also face a separate charge of solicitation of a felony.

After his arraignment by a District Court Judge he was remanded to the County Jail on a $5 million cash surety bond.

Two days after his arrest Gomery answered a motion that was filed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to dismiss the case.

In District Courtroom testimony Fisher affirmed that there was a plan in place, devised by Gomery to kill Cooke using him as the assassin along with the specifics of the plot and the amount to be paid.

The case continues… Check back here for updates as it moves toward its conclusion.

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It was more than twenty years ago when Lynne Friend went to meet her estranged husband to pick up a check that was due for child support. After that evening, the then thirty-five year old Lynne Friend vanished.

For eighteen of those twenty years, her ex-husband, Clifford Friend lived his life as a free man and continued with his life. He remarried in 1995 and together with his new wife they raised his son Christian the product of his first marriage. He opened a pawn shop and the couple bought a home in Pembroke Pines. Although he was the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, charges against him were never filed.

But in March of 2012, a Grand Jury indicted Friend for the charge of first degree murder in his wife’s death. Over the years, the case had gone before Grand Juries three previous times but it wasn’t until the latest review that an Indictment was returned.

Back then, after making his first appearance before a Miami-Dade judge, the Lighthouse Point man was denied bail. At the time, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office introduced new evidence that apparently made the difference although Lynne’s body was never found.

Investigators asserted that they had new evidence that was gathered during the course of their investigation stating that they had confirmation of Mr. Friend and Alan Gold (one of his former friends) throwing an oversized bundle from Gold’s boat that was drifting off the coast of Miami Beach in the area of Government Cut. The information was provided by U.S. Customs officials who told investigators that they witnessed the act on the last night Lynne Friend was seen, approximately one hour after Friend spoke with his wife about picking up the payment.

The boat was later searched revealing a quantity of light gauge rope and two cement blocks. However, in spite of a considerable search of the area, no human remains or evidence of a large package or container of any type was ever found in the water or neighboring area.

The prosecution’s case hinged on Gold’s testimony who until recently remained silent. He was offered immunity in the case in exchange for becoming a witness against his former friend. He stated that he promised Mr. Friend that he would never reveal the episode that transpired that night and had no intentions of doing so. But his fear of being prosecuted as an accessory to the crime caused him to accept the immunity deal. At trial, in his own words when he was asked why he decided to testify he told the prosecutor: “Only because you put me in a box and I don’t have any choice.”

Prior to making that statement, during questioning the prosecutor asked Gold if he helped Friend on the night in question by throwing a parcel off a boat into the water. His answer was in the affirmative. The prosecutor’s then asked if he suspected what was in the bag that was thrown overboard to which he responded definitively and without hesitation “His wife, Lynne.”

During further questioning Gold stated that Friend told him that he strangled his ex-wife during a heated argument and he only agreed to help his friend get rid of his ex-wife’s body to keep him from getting arrested and sent to jail leaving their son, Christian without either parent. His son Christian was five years old at the time of his mother’s presumed murder. Gold went on to say “I basically didn’t want to see the kid fatherless.”

Friend had previously lost a long bitter custody battle and his ex-wife was preparing to leave the state with their son. This apparently infuriated Friend.

The two week long first-degree murder trial that concluded in July resulted with the jury deliberating for five hours before returning a verdict of guilty of the lesser charge of second degree murder.

Before the sentence of life in prison was announced last month, Friend’s current wife Janet told the judge that her husband was a good man. “His smile, his guidance and his presence as a father will be missed. I’m requesting you to consider that he had no criminal history and was an outstanding citizen, phenomenal father and wonderful husband.” The couple had been married for nineteen years.

His son Christian, now twenty-five also stood by his father saying that his father was innocent of the crime. “He raised us to know the difference between right and wrong. I know he loved me. He loved too much to hurt me by taking my mother from me. After sitting here for weeks, I have never been more sure of his innocence.”

But Lynn Friend’s former fiancé, Ed O’Dell had a completely opposite viewpoint. After the sentence was imposed he told reporters that he though Friend should have received the death penalty.

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Cesar Limas made his living by selling cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Yet he became the prosecutor’s key witness in a first degree murder trial that led to fourteen months of jail time for Carlos Hiracheta Perez, 29, of Dade City pending trial.

Limas told police that he and another man wrestled a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol away from Perez outside an abandoned house in Dade City after two shots were fired inside the house.

Within the residence lay the motionless body of Arturo Escamilla. Limas told Sheriff’s deputies that after he grabbed the gun away from Perez, the suspect ran from the scene. Perez was apprehended afterward, and detained by Dade City police officers. He was later charged with attempted first degree murder and held without bail at the Pasco County Jail. The charges were elevated to first degree murder when Escamilla died the following day at Bayonet Point Hospital as a result of his injuries that took place in mid-May of last year.

Based on the arrest affidavit, Perez got into an argument with Escamilla inside the house leading prosecutors to contend that Perez was the person who gravely injured Escamilla when he shot him twice in the head.

However, at trial, the advocate for Perez placed doubt on Mr. Limas’s testimony pointing out contradictions in his original statement to police, as well as a lack of any evidence directly attributing Perez to being the shooter.

The assistant public defender argued that at the time of the shooting there were five men inside the abandoned house including Perez and Limas. Perez maintained that he was sleeping on a couch and ran when two gunshots rang out, believing he was running for his life. After Perez sprinted out of the house first, four more men followed and hopped into a vehicle and raced away. This was corroborated by neighbors who witnessed the events unfold. This contradicted Limas’s original statement to police that he and another man disarmed Perez.

A photograph of Limas was also revealed in possession of a .45-caliber handgun that was taken a few days prior to the shooting which more than likely could have been the gun that killed Escamilla. Additionally, members of Escamilla’s family stated that he never had any problems with Perez, but often had battles and heated disagreements with all of the other men in the group who all rushed out of the previously vacated dwelling after the shots were fired, including the prosecution’s central witness.

Perez’s court appointed attorney described to jurors that based on the presentation of the prosecution’s case it appeared they had more evidence against their star witness than they did against his client, and placed doubt in their minds by establishing that any of the other four men could have been the actual trigger-man.
The jury’s deliberations took a little more than an hour when they returned to their seats with a unanimous verdict. Judge Pat Siracusa cautioned Perez and his family to remain passive and quiet regardless of what the results were prior to the reading of the verdict. And they did as instructed, because the silence was deafening when it was revealed that the finding of all jury members was not guilty.

When the outcome of the verdict became apparent to Perez’s mother, with the speaker of her cellphone activated she was overheard excitedly repeating the word “libre”. Translated from Spanish, the word libre simply means “free”.

She next saw her son walking down the corridor that led out of the courthouse, exiting through the sliding glass doors into the lobby where she, his sister and niece came together around him in a mutual hug ending Carlos’s fourteen month ordeal this past July.

In Pasco County, a not guilty outcome in a first degree murder case is uncommon. It had been almost four years since it previously occurred when Anthony Harris was exonerated for the first degree murder charge of killing a drug dealer in 2010.<!–

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Otto Wright’s first trial for felony first-degree murder ended in a mistrial when a jury couldn’t come to a unanimous decision. But his second trial ended with a guilty verdict when the previously self-proclaimed “look out” admitted that he participated in the robbery of a West Palm Beach Chick-Fil-A restaurant.

Nicholas Megrath, the 18-year old manager of the restaurant that was located at the now non-operational West Palm Beach Mall was shot and killed by one of the other culprits. But Wright’s taped confession stated that although he watched the robbery unfold and was a part of it he didn’t fire the fatal gunshot. There was no physical evidence placing him at the scene but after a seven hour interrogation by police Wright confessed to the robbery naming two of his accomplices as Terrance Watson and Darrell Howard. Watson and Howard were never accused by police or charged with the crime. A little more than five-hundred dollars in total was stolen from the store.

Wright’s lawyer argued that the confession obtained by police was given under duress and they manipulated his client by lying to him when they told him that they had physical evidence implicating him which was found at the crime scene. They also played a good cop, bad cop routine by utilizing the help of an officer who knew Wright for many years and had previously assumed the role of a father figure to him in order to a coerce Wright into confessing to his role in the robbery.

But prior to Wright’s conviction and imposition of a life sentence, police believed they had two other suspects that they liked for the robbery/murder.

Marlon Johnson, also a Chick-Fil-A employee was the cop’s primary suspect after the crime was committed. A witness interviewed by police told them that Johnson told him that he participated in the crime. After spending a year in jail pending trial, the witness recanted his statement and Johnson was released from prison. But in addition to Johnson, law enforcement had another suspect on their radar. That man was Jesse Lee Miller Jr.

The murder itself was described as an execution style killing and quickly became a high-profile case. Megrath was found dead in an employee bathroom, shot in the back of the head with a single gunshot wound while he was bound to a chair with duct tape wrapped around his upper body as well as his mouth. His hands, arms, and legs were also held in place by the adhesive.

Miller was taken into custody one month after Wright’s arrest in September 2000 when during the investigation a ski mask was uncovered outside the Mall in a trash container. At the time, Detective Bill Fraser entered an affidavit into evidence that stated the saliva found inside the mask was a “100 percent match” to Miller’s DNA.

But extensive testing of the evidence showed that the DNA, although somewhat matching to that of Miller’s was far-off from the “100 percent match” as initially specified by Fraser. Final lab results demonstrated that the DNA that was present in the mask was a match to more than one out of every thousand Afro Americans, one out of every seven hundred Hispanics as well as one out of every twelve hundred Caucasians. Now, with the prosecution unable to make a conclusive case for the DNA evidence, charges were dropped in November 2001 after Miller spent 14 months in jail awaiting trial. When questioned about his affidavit Detective Fraser told jurors “I was incorrect, I thought I was right at the time but due to my ignorance with DNA I was incorrect.”

But police investigators and Fraser weren’t done with Miller.

Despite the inconclusive saliva being tossed as evidence, new information brought to light pressed a grand jury to produce a new indictment in July, 2007. The new indictment charged Miller with first-degree murder, armed robbery by use of a firearm, burglary charges with assault or battery while armed with that firearm as well as armed kidnapping.

In that trial which began in 2009 the jury was told that Miller had a grudge against Megrath for reporting him to the Chick-Fil-A’s owner for stealing, among presenting other evidence including the mentioning that more advanced forensic methods may still be able to link Miller to the ski mask. That trial ended in a hung jury.

Proceeding with a new trial, prosecutors were given another chance at Miller a few months later in that same year.

Among the new evidence provided by the prosecution was a hand written note with the combination to the Chick-Fil-A safe written on it. The yellow-lined notepad evidence clearly showed the characters and words “55, 65, 9, 10,” “4 time stop,” “left right left right”. A national handwriting expert from Memphis, Tennessee testified in court that the type of strokes made by the writing instrument definitively indicated it to be written by Jessie Miller. The forensic document inspector, Grant R. Sperry stated to the jury that “Mr. Miller is the writer,” of the note.

A secondary handwriting expert confirmed Sperry’s findings in court and told the jury that other examiners agreed that the note was likely written by the defendant. Finally, Miller was convicted being found guilty for the first-degree murder charge as well as, burglary, robbery and the kidnapping count.

Miller’s public defenders were granted an appeal to the ruling in 2012. The 4th District Court of Appeals threw out the conviction and ordered a new trial ruling that the reversal of the conviction was justified based on the Circuit Judge’s error of allowing improper testimony, specifically the bolstering of the handwriting experts testimony relating to the note allegedly written by the defendant. Additionally the earlier confession by Otto Wright posed a problem for the prosecution since Miller wasn’t named as an accomplice from a man who was already serving his sentence for the murder; at least partially based on his confession that named other individuals.

Miller’s final trial began in June of this year. By the end of the month he would no longer have to be defended in court. He was again tried on the first-degree murder charge but all other charges were dropped during the trial when one of his defense attorneys raised the issue that the state allowed the statute of limitations for all other charges to run out. The judge agreed. He also benefited from a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that decided that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders who are convicted of committing murder is unconstitutional. Miller was seventeen at the time the crime took place.

But all of that became a moot point after jurors deliberated for a little less than three hours at the conclusion of the three-week trial, unanimously finding Miller not guilty of first-degree murder. After three separate trials over a period of nearly fourteen years, Jesse Lee Miller Jr. walked out of the courtroom a free man. When questioned by reporters a jubilant Miller said “I’m free, y’know they had the wrong guy” and somberly mentioned that he didn’t know what to say to the family of Nicholas Megrath to comfort them; only that he knew nothing would bring their son back.

To read about my qualifications and what you should do if you are arrested and charged with murder, click here.

Two Staten Island men fought for their lives but their assailant finally won out when he shot each of the men, one in the head, the other in the leg and torso. The victims of the attack, Kenrick Gray, 34, and Noland (DJ) Whistleton, 41, both died of their injuries a short time later after police responded to an emergency 911 call that conveyed the shooting which occurred on Park Hill Avenue. The call came in at 6:17 p.m. Gray who was shot in the head was pronounced dead on arrival at Richmond University Medical Center and Whistleton suffered the same fate when his lifeless body arrived at Staten Island University Hospital shortly after the violence concluded.

Gray, of Stapleton, may well have had an inadvertent hand in the events that transpired which led to the attack that caused his death and that of Whistleton. A few years ago he won a settlement against the City of New York that totaled $132,500.00 from a federal civil rights lawsuit. The city shelled out $125,000.00 and police officer Michael Daragjati had to personally pay $7,500.00. Additionally, the police officer is in the midst of serving an almost 5 year prison sentence for violating Gray’s rights as well as a conviction for an unconnected case. He had numerous other civil-rights grievances lodged against him at the time of the settlement.

According to court documents, the police officer arrested Gray in early April 2011 because he protested about being stopped and frisked in a “rough” manner at the intersection of Laurel Avenue and Targee Street in Staten Island. The following day, an intercepted phone conversation caught the police officer, speaking to an associate saying that he had “fried another [n-word].” This condemning statement led to the settlement in tandem by the City and personally by the police officer.

Unfortunately, Gray was not tight-lipped about his monetary windfall.

As has been par for the course this year in the Metropolitan area, it was a snowy night when Darren “True Story” Brown, 27 of Mariner’s Harbor, confronted Gray and Whistleton. He apparently heard the story of Gray’s good fortune and decided that Gray was a prime target for a robbery. After approaching the two men and pulling his gun, the two victims’ began to fight with their attacker, trying to separate Brown’s firearm from his person. Brown suffered a gunshot wound but law enforcement believe that it may have been self-inflicted during the scuffle and in the end he remained the only one of the three men still breathing.

Although Gray was the victim of the robbery he was well-known in the neighborhood to be a small-time drug dealer. According to police records he had twenty-two drug related arrests.

Brown was arrested and indicted a few days later after being found hiding in the shower of his girlfriend’s home by the Staten Island Warrants Unit. It wasn’t known if he made off with any money that Gray might have been carrying during the fatal shootout.

He now faces a potential penalty of life in prison if convicted of the first-degree murder charges in the double homicide. He was also charged with attempted robbery. He pleaded not guilty to all charges through his attorney.

According to silive.com (Staten Island Live Online), Whistleton’s sister said that he and Gray were friends. Her brother just happened to be “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“My brother, he tried to save Kendrick, and that’s how he ended up getting shot,” as shown on the online news source. “Knowing my brother, knowing how he is, he wasn’t going to stand there.”

A source close to the investigation told the New York Post that Gray had spoken about using the money he made from the settlement to start a music business.

In a telephone interview, a female relative said “Word gets around about that type of thing… People knew he had a little money and he just wasn’t as quiet about it as he should have been… it’s just sad.”

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A gun was discharged in a Wesley Chapel, Florida Movie Theater shocking some patrons into the belief that the events of the mass murder that took place in Aurora Colorado in the summer of 2012 might be unfolding in their own neighborhood theater.

Kareen Lasky, who was in an adjacent theater when the gunfire rang out told the Tampa Bay Times that when the shooting occurred “The first thing I thought of was the theater out there in the West.”

Although this incident was not at all similar to the events that took place in Aurora, Colorado, a man was still shot and killed.

This specific event arose when a retired Tampa police captain shot a man in the chest after arguing with him about using his cell phone to send text messages inside a movie theater. The shooting took place at the Cobb Theater’s Grove 16 & Cine Bistro mid last month in Wesley Chapel, FL, a suburb about a thirty miles north of Tampa.

Chad Oulson was seated with his wife Nicole waiting for the matinee of the film “Lone Survivor” to begin when an altercation began with retired Police Captain Curtis Reeves, Jr. After words were exchanged, Reeves who also was also accompanied by his wife, got up to apparently complain to management about the texting, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office police report. The Oulsons’ were sitting in front of the seemingly agitated 6-foot-1, 270-pound, seventy-one year-old former police captain.
As the argument between the two couples escalated and was seemingly reaching its peak, Mr. Oulson reportedly threw popcorn at Reeves instigating a reaction where Reeves revealed his .380-semi-auto handgun and fired at Oulson hitting him in the chest. Mrs. Oulson was shot in the hand, apparently trying to block the bullet that was directed at her husband. According to a witness, after Reeves shot Oulson, he sat back down and placed the weapon in his lap.

When police arrived, Reeves was arrested and later charged with second-degree murder. An off-duty Sumter County deputy who was inside the theater as the shooting went on detained the retired officer until other deputies arrived at the scene.

When neighbors were interviewed, each of them had only good things to say about the man that moved to the area about 10 years ago. “He must have just snapped,” said Joe D’Andrea, and went on to describe him as a friendly, “stand-up” guy… I would not think he was the type of guy to do something like that. Another neighbor, Bill Costas told CNN affiliate WFLA that the man described in the report sounds like “a completely different guy” from the one he knows. He continued by saying he was a “very nice guy, always smiling… very helpful. If I needed help with something, he was there to help. I’ve never seen him angry.”

But Pasco County Sherriff Chris Nocco was easy to find fault with the former police captain saying “To have a retired police officer… I don’t know what he was thinking at the time. I can tell you, anybody, over a cellphone, to take their life, it’s ridiculous.”

During his career, for his leadership capabilities, Reeves frequently established exceptional assessments and repeated letters of commendation. He was praised for his role in the training he commanded for other agencies regarding gun safety as well as other matters which were noted in his personnel file. He was applauded for his oversight of the tactical response team for the 1987 visit to Tampa by “then” Vice President George H.W. Bush and was regularly given praise for his abilities of problem solving and managing stressful situations. In one job performance review a supervisor stated that “Captain Reeves not only has the ability to act decisively when necessary but has the foresight to initiate the proper course of action to avoid conflict.”

Still, the Pasco County Sheriff stated clearly that: “It didn’t matter what he had done previously in his life. You don’t shoot someone over a texting incident.”

Early in Reeves career he was reprimanded for handling a city weapon without proper care. At the time, one of his supervisors also noted in an assessment that “Reeves has a tendency to be impatient in regards to legal matters and practices now in force… and may be abrupt with complainants in some areas of the city.”

However, that assessment was written over thirty-five years ago.

After appearing in Court for his primary hearing, he was ordered held without bail pending a bond hearing by Judge Lynn Tepper for the second-degree murder charge.

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The name they use sounds like they could be a secret government agency or espionage unit but in reality MS-13 is a ferocious, violent street gang with its roots established in Los Angeles via Central America which has been infiltrating many U.S. cities over the past three decades.

It was just a few months ago, in early September when one of their members, Adalberto Ariel Guzman, a/k/a Gringo was convicted for the 2010 murder of Vanessa Argueta, a 19-year-old mother along with her 2-year-old son Diego Torres in Central Islip, New York. Guzman, 21, bolted to El Salvador after the shooting but was arrested when he reentered the United States later that same year. A total of twenty-five members and acquaintances of the gang were charged in a 70-count indictment in March 2011 that led to his conviction. According to prosecutors, Guzman shot the woman for the sole reason that he believed she had shown disrespect toward the gang. The child was killed simply for being with his mother at the wrong place at the wrong time. Guzman was the last of three defendants in this particular case, the others being Heriberto Martinez, and Rene Mendez Mejia who were previously convicted for their role in the mob-style murders.

Last week, Carlos Ortega, a/k/a Silencio, a leader of the Sitios Locos Salvatruchas faction of MS-13 received a life sentence plus sixty years for all counts listed in an indictment against him including murder, conspiracy relating to racketeering, as well as assault with dangerous weapons, and related firearms and conspiracy charges. The sentence was handed down in the Central Islip federal courthouse following a six-week trial concluding with Ortega’s conviction, this past March 21.

MS-13, the known pseudonym for Mara Salvatrucha or MS for short, was founded in Los Angeles’s Pico-Union neighborhood in 1980 by immigrants from the Central American country of El Salvador. The word “Mara” refers to the Spanish word for gang and “Salvatrucha” is a term noted in Spanish slang as a Salvadoran army ant. Another rendition of the word Salvatrucha translates to Salvadoran peasant guerrilla which was a good part of who the gang’s early manpower consisted of.

The reference to the number 13 in MS-13 is credited to the gang “Los Emes” shortened in English to “The M’s” which is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet. The M’s were a similar gang that also originated in Los Angeles.

Besides operating in numerous cities in the United States, the gang has offshoots’ mostly in Central America but has also been known to operate in South America and Canada as well. They were originally fashioned to safeguard Salvadoran immigrants from rival Mexican gangs that were victimizing them and were made up of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans. They have been branded the most dangerous and violent gang in the United States, as well as one of the most organized. Over the years they have been considered to be the only street gang of their type that can be mirrored to a true organized crime enterprise.

The gang’s strongholds have generally been on the West Coast and in Southwest cities but over the past decade their influence has widened on the East Coast to New York including its suburb of Long Island, Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia and Florida. Midway through the first decade of the twenty-first century it was believed that their membership had grown in excess of 50,000 members.

After catching the attention of federal law enforcement agencies, an initiative named Operation Community Shield was set up as a joint effort by the FBI and ICE. In 2005 during the first year of operation OCS was responsible for more than 600 arrests against suspected gang member throughout the United States including many from MS-13 and in 2005 began a campaign of cracking down on the growing street gang. Since then, thousands of gang members, many of them members of MS-13, have been rounded up, arrested and convicted of crimes relating to diverse varieties of street violence and murder.

But in the case against “Gringo” and “Silencio” it was investigations led by the FBI Long Island Gang Task Force, which was comprised of officers and agents of the Nassau County Police Department and Sheriff’s Department, along with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and Department of Probation as well as the Rockville Centre Police Department that led to the downfall of Adalberto Ariel Guzman who awaits sentencing in January for his conviction, for the two murders that was powerfully described as “brutal, cold-blooded executions.” by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco, and Carlos Ortega who’s conviction resulted in the life sentence plus 60 years for the “heinous acts of violence in the name of MS-13, cutting a swath of murder from Brentwood to Far Rockaway, all within the span of a few weeks,” as stated by U.S. Attorney Lynch.

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Greenwich Village is a mostly residential area of the west side of Lower Manhattan. The largest majority of people who live there are basically upper middle class families. Known in the latter part of the 19th century through the present, the “Village” has been labeled a haven for artists, as well as the bohemian capital of New York City. It is also credited as the birthplace of the Beat movement of the East Coast. The neighborhood is encompassed by Broadway to the east and the Hudson River to its furthest point west. To the south lies Houston Street and it travels north to 14th Street. The neighborhood essentially centers New York University and Washington Square Park.

Living among the wealthy residents who live in stylish apartment buildings or own their own renovated brownstones, there is a large gay community. This group is known to mostly frequent the bars and clubs of the west village.

While traveling through the Village it is not unusual to run across openly gay members of its population. Two men, or two women, walking together holding hands with each other is more the rule than its exception. Especially north of the Avenue of the Americas which is the unofficial line of demarcation separating the east and west village. Within the community’s whole there is the realm of gay men and lesbians and the bars they frequent as well as the domain of straight men and women who visit clubs that fit a heterosexual lifestyle.

It was on a corner of the Avenue of the Americas that Mark Carson, 32, heard the words “You want to die tonight?”

Carson was walking with a companion as he was being followed by Elliot Morales, who was repeatedly shouting anti-gay slurs at the two. After his final hateful proclamation, he allegedly shot Carson in the face with a silver revolver. Carson was found fatally wounded by police lying in the street and later died of his injuries after being taken to Beth Israel Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

A short time later, Morales was picked up when a police officer spotted him a few blocks away from the crime scene. The officer heard the description of the perpetrator on his radio and made the arrest upon seeing Morales.

Approximately 15 minutes before the murder took place, the alleged killer was noticed urinating outside a fashionable restaurant a few blocks from the crime scene, according to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Kelly labeled the murder a hate crime. “There were no words that would aggravate the situation, and the victim did not know the perpetrator,” he said.

Before a commencement address that he delivered in White Plains, when speaking about the incident, he went on to say “It is clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay. There is no question about that.”

Police also questioned two unidentified individuals who had been seen with Morales moments before the shooting took place. The Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said that the two men were questioned as witnesses to the murder and were not, considered suspects at this time. He also said that they were cooperating with the authorities.

According to state Department of Correction records it was found that Mr. Morales had been found guilty of a robbery and served more than 10 years in prison for his conviction of that crime. Until his arrest he had been staying with one of the two men who is now being questioned as a witness at his home in Far Rockaway, Queens. Police found another gun amongst Mr. Morales’s belongings at that location.

According to an undisclosed source, Mr. Morales’s sister, Edith Gutierrez, said she did not believe her brother could have committed a crime of such bias. She said that they have gay relatives and her brother had never shown any signs of homophobia. She also said that when she spoke with her brother in jail, “he said he doesn’t remember anything; he was under the influence, he was drinking.”

After making his first appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court, he was charged with murder and weapons charges, according to the Wall Street Journal. Pending his next court appearance he is being held without bail as ordered by Judge Robert Stolz.

Morales, said nothing at his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court and his attorney chose not to comment on the case.

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Follow Up:
In an article posted here just under ten days ago, new evidence has been uncovered in the story of Derek Medina, the man who posted a shocking image of his murdered wife on his Facebook page.

A Surveillance video was released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, along with Medina’s dead wife’s diary. The video shows what might possibly have been the final seconds leading up to the alleged murder of Jennifer Alfonso, by the hand and the gun of her now imprisoned husband. After the shooting, Medina posted her photo on Facebook along with comments directly showing his involvement in the crime.

Although the video doesn’t display an uninterrupted observation of the entire alleged skirmish, Alfonso can be clearly seen in the kitchen at the onset of the filming. It does show Medina enter the room, arguing with Alfonso and then exit only to return evidently with a gun, although it is not within the line of sight of the rolling camera. He is then seen making his way into the kitchen when his head snaps back apparently when his wife Jennifer punches him. Moments after that an eruption of gunpowder can be seen flying out of the kitchen denoting the 6 to 8 shots that Medina fired at his wife based on his own confession. Next, he returns with his jacket and cell phone as he allegedly takes the picture that he posted on Facebook before putting on the jacket and placing his cell phone in his pocket as he exits their home. The video concludes presenting heavily armed police entering the townhouse through the front door; concluding the released footage of the video before they discovered Alfonso’s body which is never seen on camera but discovered slumped in the kitchen.

Medina contends that his wife grabbed a knife during the scuffle, but he was able to take it away from her and return it to a kitchen drawer. This suspected circumstance is not played out within the recording.

Since my first posting, Medina has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder although it has been reported that prosecutors will likely seek a first-degree murder indictment when the grand jury returns.

Medina and Alfonso had a shaky relationship. After getting married in 2010 and divorcing in 2012 they remarried a few months later during the scope of those couple of years.

A major irony in this case is the context that Medina was an author of numerous e-books, one of them titled “How I saved someone’s life and marriage and family problems thru communication” which is a story where the main character saves his marriage after getting divorced and remarried to the same person. He also maintains a Website named EmotionalWriter.com. He marketed himself in numerous videos that he posted on YouTube and his e-books could be found and purchased on amazon.com

According to CBS Miami, Alfonso’s father is quoted as saying in reference to Medina posting his dead daughter’s image “It’s like self-promoting what he’s always done you know. To put my daughter nationwide on Facebook that’s unbelievable, unbelievable,”
But Medina’s father had a different story to tell saying that his son was only trying to defend himself. “They are making my son into an animal. He was scared of her all his life, all the relationship, because he always reported to me that he would get beaten by her,” said Medina Sr. “She pushed him to the point of insanity”.

In another bizarre twist some of the entries unveiled in Alfonso’s journal/diary told of her hearing “weird noises” and macabre sounds in their house and had the feeling of “being watched” as well as writing that she “always believed in zombies” discussing her concerns over reports of cannibalism relating to designer synthetic drugs denoted as “bath salts”.

In a December 27, 2012 entry she wrote: “I no [sic] he loves me and I no [sic] I love him just wished we had better ways of showing it. When we love each other its [sic] GREAT. But when we hate each other we HATE each other,”
In a May 22, 2012, entry, obviously displaying aggressive feelings toward Medina she wrote: “After little situations that me and derek [sic] have been through I find myself uncontrolably jelouse [sic], like want to murder type of deal,” says the diary. “His eyes start wondering [sic], more than once, of course my blood boiled and I wanted to rip his eyes right out of the socket, disrespect.”

She finished that day’s notes when she penned: “I just wish everybody could be happy!!”
As more details emerge it’ll be interesting to see how this case plays out. I’ll keep you informed.

To read my first post on this topic, click here.

[sic]: added immediately after a quoted word or phrase (or a longer piece of text), indicates that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, complete with any erroneous spelling or other nonstandard presentation Source: Wikipedia.com

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