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Jury takes up Cordell case

December 02, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County's prosecutor told jurors Thursday that 16-year-old Joey DeLoa was not killed in a drive-by shooting by gang members, but was shot by Chad Joseph Cordell because DeLoa insulted and stole from him.

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Cordell, 23, of 913 W. Martin St., chose not to testify on Thursday, the last of three days of testimony in his murder trial. The defense rested and the case went to the jury at about 3 p.m.

After more than two hours of deliberations, jurors ended their day around 5 p.m. The five women and seven men will continue deliberating at 9 a.m. today.

Berkeley County Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes gave the jury the option of finding Cordell not guilty or guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.

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If the jury finds Cordell guilty of first-degree or premeditated murder, it must decide whether to recommend mercy. Such a recommendation provides for the possibility of parole after 15 years in jail. If mercy is not recommended, the maximum penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison without parole.

Second-degree murder requires intent and malice, but not premeditation, while voluntary manslaughter is a sudden killing in the heat of passion, Wilkes said.

"For one fatal second Chad Cordell had the power of God in his hands, and he used it," Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely told the jurors in her closing statement.

Games-Neely said Cordell was angry that DeLoa stole a $2 pot from a card game and disrespected Cordell in the way DeLoa spoke to him while at Javier Howard's house the night of Dec. 11, 1998.

Jose "Joey" DeLoa was found shot to death in front of 330 S. Rosemont Ave. around 11 that night. He was believed to have been on his way home to 303 S. Rosemont Ave.

DeLoa had been shot five times, including a shot through the heart and a shot to the back of the head, according to testimony.

"This is not the movies. That's an execution," Games-Neely said.

"The most telling connection in this case is that Chad Cordell deliberately tried to mislead police officers in this investigation," Games-Neely said.

According to testimony from police, Cordell wiped one piece of evidence against his shirt before handing it to police in an attempt to wipe off fingerprints. And investigators said Cordell denied leaving Howard's house with DeLoa the night of the shooting.

But other witnesses said Cordell left Howard's 405 Porter Ave. home with DeLoa shortly before 11 p.m. on the night of the shooting.

While two witnesses testified Cordell said he'd shot a boy who pulled a knife on him, Games-Neely said a knife was never found around DeLoa's body.

Cordell's Martinsburg defense attorney, Craig Manford, argued that reasonable doubt existed and that DeLoa could have been the victim of a drive-by shooting and gang retaliation.

Police Sgt. Robert Fidone from Omaha, Neb., testified that DeLoa was an admitted member of the Lomas gang and had a gang-related tattoo of his last name in elaborate writing on his upper back.

Fidone said DeLoa was shot in the knee on June 28, 1998, in a gang-related incident in Omaha. DeLoa had moved back to Martinsburg from Omaha two days before his death. Witnesses to the Omaha shooting said a white or black car was involved. The crime was never solved.

Some defense witnesses Thursday said they saw a small, dark car near the murder scene either around the time of the fatal shooting or a few hours later.

When DeLoa was killed, he was wearing a jersey with the number 13, which is symbolic to the Lomas because it represents the 13th letter of the alphabet, M, Fidone said. The M stands for murder, marijuana, and sometimes Mexican. DeLoa was Hispanic.

On Tuesday the state's deputy chief medical examiner stated the toxicology reports from DeLoa's autopsy were positive for marijuana and alcohol.

Still, Fidone said he knew of no connection between the June 1998 shooting and the fatal shooting on Dec. 11, 1998, other than DeLoa being a victim in both.

Games-Neely said Manford's theory of a drive-by shooting didn't make sense since no other bullets or pock marks from bullets were found around the South Rosemont Avenue crime scene.

Both Fidone and Martinsburg Detective Sgt. George Swartwood had testified that drive-by shootings usually result in damage to the surrounding area because of the spray of bullets.

Fidone said the chances of a rival gang driving from Nebraska to West Virginia to shoot DeLoa were "remote."

Games-Neely also said it didn't make sense that a drive-by shooter would leave the murder weapon - a .22-caliber handgun - under a truck cap in an alley less than two houses from the 425 S. Kentucky Ave. home of Kym Hall.

On Tuesday, Hall testified that Cordell told her the night of Dec. 11, 1998, that he had gotten in a fight with a boy and shot him but didn't know if he was dead. She testified that Cordell gave her several .22-caliber cartridges and some shotgun shells that night.

Manford had raised the possibility of a "murder for hire," questioning Swartwood on Tuesday about a Crime Solvers tip suggesting as much.

Swartwood said that theory didn't "fit the evidence of the crime."

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