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W.Va. murder trial opens

November 30, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A prosecution witness in the murder trial of Chad Joseph Cordell told jurors Tuesday she heard the defendant say he "could shoot" 16-year-old Joey DeLoa over the stolen $2 pot in a card game less than an hour before DeLoa was shot to death on Dec. 11, 1998.

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On the opening day of Cordell's trial, Erica Wilson, 16, of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., testified she heard Cordell, 23, and Javier Howard talking about DeLoa stealing money from the pot.

"'I could shoot him,'" Wilson testified Cordell said.

"He sounded like he was joking," Wilson said when cross-examined by Cordell's Martinsburg attorney, Craig Manford, in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Wilson and a girlfriend arrived at the home of Javier Howard, where the boys were hanging out, around 10:30 p.m., witnesses said.

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Jose "Joey" DeLoa was found "laying face down in his own blood, shot multiple times" within a block of his 303 S. Rosemont Ave. home around 11 p.m., said Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely.

"It's murder of the most vicious kind," Games-Neely said.

Martinsburg City Police have said DeLoa was shot at least five times, although testimony and evidence presented Tuesday pointed to the teenager being shot at least three times.

DeLoa was a resident of Omaha, Neb., who had grown up in Berkeley County and returned Dec. 9 to visit.

DeLoa and Cordell, of Martinsburg, were part of a group playing cards and Sega Genesis video games at the 405 Porter Ave. home of friend Javier Howard the night of the shooting, according to police and prosecution witnesses who testified Tuesday.

Howard, 17, testified that DeLoa and Cordell had called each other names and were "eyeballing" each other while at his house that night.

"'I'm going to hurt him. He's flossing on me,'" Howard testified Cordell told him. Howard said "flossing" was slang for "trash talk."

At one point Howard had mediated the dispute between the two and they had shaken hands, he testified.

But Howard said he felt there would be "complications" after seeing Cordell and DeLoa leave his home that night shortly before 11 p.m.

When Manford asked Howard why he hadn't mentioned that the first time detectives questioned him about the night of the shooting, Howard said he was "scared" and didn't want to get in the middle of a dispute between two of his friends.

Other witnesses testified they'd seen Cordell with a .22-caliber handgun on different occasions, but not on the night of the shooting.

Howard said when he moved Cordell's jacket he felt a weight in the left pocket he believed to be a gun and asked Cordell about it. But Cordell never said what was in the pocket and Howard didn't look, he said.

A .22-caliber hollow-point bullet was removed from DeLoa's back during an autopsy, testified Martinsburg City Police Sgt. Shannon L. Armel. Two other bullets were removed from DeLoa's brain and from between his spine and rib cage. Bullet fragments also were found in the victim, he said.

There were five holes in DeLoa's clothing, including two in the hood of a sweatshirt and holes in the shoulder and in the left sleeve, Armel said as sobbing was heard from a woman in the gallery on the prosecutor's side of the court.

While no weapon was found the night of the shooting, police later found a nine-shot .22-caliber handgun in an alley near the 400 block of South Kentucky Avenue. Police said the gun had five spent rounds and four live cartridges in its chambers.

During the morning and afternoon Cordell sat calmly in a gray suit, occasionally whispering to Manford as he cross-examined the prosecutor's witnesses.

In Manford's opening statement he hinted to the jury of eight men and four women that someone else shot DeLoa, but never came out and said so.

He tried to connect the Dec. 11, 1998, shooting death to a previous shooting in which DeLoa had been shot in the knee in June 1998 in front of his Omaha, Neb., home.

In both shootings Manford said a small, dark car was in the vicinity. Manford spoke of a witness who allegedly saw the car sitting nearby in the middle of the road and then departing, squealing its wheels around the time DeLoa was shot to death.

The Omaha shooting involved gang members, and Manford said DeLoa may have belonged to a gang.

"(It's) too coincidental not to be noticed, not to be looked at," Manford said.

Games-Neely is expected to finish presenting her witnesses today so Manford can begin calling defense witnesses, including someone from Omaha, he said.

Conviction on a murder charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

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