State prosecutors on Thursday announced a slew of indictments in two separate Anchorage killings, including the high-profile shooting of a 17-year-old girl caught in a gun battle two years ago at an East Anchorage party.
The case frustrated the public -- it was a murder in a crowded place -- and police said witnesses weren't talking. Over many months, detectives pieced together the details of Desirae Douglas's death, said Sgt. Slawomir Markiewicz, head of the Anchorage Police Department's homicide unit.
"Eventually, little by little, the case was getting bigger," Markiewicz said. "The point came that we had enough that we could present it to the grand jury."
Six men have been indicted in the shooting. One, 25-year-old Julio Batista, once described himself to the Daily News as Douglas's boyfriend.
A seventh man, who prosecutors believe participated in the shootout that killed Douglas with a stray bullet to the neck, was himself shot and killed in March. A grand jury also indicted three people in that death.
Few details emerged Thursday in the overlapping murder cases, but the indictments and court appearance by the accused shooters marked a milestone in the lives of Douglas's family.
The slain teenager's grandmother, Clara Douglas, said detectives had called the family together for an announcement Wednesday night: The men prosecutors say were directly responsible for Desirae's death were in jail.
"We were thrilled to hear the news. We've waited a long time," Clara Douglas said. She wore a red shirt with a faded picture of Desirae printed on it and spoke briefly outside an Anchorage courtroom Thursday afternoon.
The Douglas women held hands inside the courtroom during the hearing. A man in the back, who said he was family, wrung his hands and cried.
"I can still hear those shots. I live right down the street," said Desirae's aunt, Jeanetta Douglas.
THE FATEFUL PARTY
The grand jury transcripts are sealed, but earlier documents filed in court tell the story of an innocent girl caught in the crossfire during a gang shootout early the morning of Sept. 9, 2009.
Music thumped into the night. The partygoers ranged in age from 13 to their early 20s. They jumped fences, ran between yards, shouted at each other. A fight broke out in the front yard where the house party was still raging, a witness told police.
The brawl was between one group of men and a larger group, members of a street gang called "K.C.," wrote Assistant Attorney General Paul Miovas in court papers. The shooting began about 2 a.m. One witness guessed the gun battle continued for about five minutes.
One of the shots struck Douglas and her friends rushed to her side. Batista took her inside and tried to resuscitate her, but it was too late, he told the Daily News in the months following the shooting.
Homicide investigators have not said in interviews or in court papers who fired the bullet that struck Douglas, but many shots were fired: Spent shell casings littered the street and front yard where the house party had been, police said.
There was a crowd of people, but police at first had trouble finding witnesses. Many more interviews would follow, Markiewicz said.
"We were getting more and more people on board who were previously reluctant to participate," Markiewicz said. The detectives waited on lab reports, he said.
"In some cases, with multiple guns being fired and multiple suspects, that takes time," he said.
Prosecutors also said Thursday that one of the men police suspected in Douglas's death, 19-year-old Devante Jordan, was himself the victim of a fatal shooting on March 24 in Mountain View. The indictments accuse 19-year-old Parrish Harris of playing a role in both killings, though Markiewicz said he could not comment on any connection between the two homicides.
A grand jury heard testimony and looked at evidence starting in early April, Markiewicz said. The indictments they handed up were sealed while police rounded up the suspects or confirmed they were already jailed, he said.
Markiewicz erased Douglas's name Thursday from where it was written in red on a white board where police list unsolved cases, he said. The detective sergeant wrote it again on a different board, this time with the black marker used for homicide cases with suspects in jail.
"I made sure to do it as soon as we had them," said Markiewicz. "It was extremely satisfying."
TRIALS SET FOR JULY, AUGUST
As video cameras whirred and photographers snapped pictures Thursday in the Anchorage courtroom, a court officer led in six men wearing orange jumpsuits. They were handcuffed together in groups of three.
Four of the men present for Thursday's arraignment hearing are accused of second-degree murder in Desirae Douglas's death. Two are accused of killing Devante Jordan and face first-degree murder charges. One faces charges for both. All pleaded not guilty.
The men arraigned Thursday for Douglas's killing are:
• Shearn Joshua, 21, arrested in the days after the party for a felony drug charge.
• Eon Owens, 20, also jailed for recent felony drug charges.
• Parrish Harris, 19, also a suspect in Jordan's fatal shooting.
• Julio Batista, 25, who was listed in Douglas's obituary as her best friend and boyfriend.
• Paul Baldwin, 20, not arraigned with the others Thursday, is jailed on recent felony drug charges.
Yet another man wanted for aiding the suspected killers is still on the loose. Dwaylon Kenzell Woodruff, 21, is wanted for charges that he tampered with evidence by disposing of spent shell casings from guns fired at the party.
The men indicted for Jordan's killing are:
• Harris, who is also indicted in the Desirae Douglas case.
• Marquinn Jones-Nelson, 21, who is accused of shooting Jordan.
• Dorian Topps, 17, an accused accomplice in the Jordan shooting.
Together, the three face additional charges for evidence tampering, because they tried to hide the gun used to kill Jordan, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The trial of Desirae Douglas's accused killers is scheduled for July. The men charged in Jordan's death are set to be tried in August.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.