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'Snitch killing' or self-defense? Murder trial opens in 2011 case

Casey Grove
Casey Grove

While jurors saw pictures of Devante Jordan's autopsy in an Anchorage courtroom Wednesday, the sound of his mother's sobbing filled the hallway outside.

"It's too hard," she said, crying into another woman's shoulder.

Inside the courtroom, state prosecutors continued trying to convince a jury that Marquinn Jones-Nelson, 23, intended to kill her son. Prosecutors called Jordan's shooting death in a Mountain View apartment in 2011, days after his 19th birthday, a "snitch killing."

Jones-Nelson's lawyer says his client fired in self-defense because he thought Jordan was going to hurt him. Jordan was violent and known on the street as the man responsible for the stray bullet that killed an innocent bystander at an East Anchorage party in 2009, the lawyer said.

Two others, Parrish Harris and Dorian Topps, were indicted for murder in the Jordan case along with Jones-Nelson, but those charges were dismissed. Topps pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and weapon misconduct. Harris is also on trial this week for weapon misconduct.

The trial opened Monday with opening statements from both sides. The lawyers agree on why the men went to the Richmond Avenue home March 24, 2011: It was Harris' birthday, and they were going to celebrate and smoke some marijuana.

What provoked the gunfire is up to the jury to decide.

'SNITCH'

Back in January 2010, Jordan and Harris were driving in a car a few days after the still-unsolved shooting of Jason Allen, an Anchorage police officer, prosecutor James Fayette told the jury Monday. Officers started following them and saw one of the men throw a gun out of the car, the prosecutor said.

As detectives began questioning Jordan and Harris, Fayette said, Jordan immediately started asking for "a deal" and gave up names of those involved in another high-profile shooting death: Desirae Douglas, a 17-year-old bystander to a shootout at a 2009 party in Muldoon. That and other evidence led to murder indictments against Harris and four others in the Douglas case. Eventually, an audio recording of Jordan's statements made its way to Harris, Fayette said. It was evidence provided to Harris by his lawyer at the time, the prosecutor said.

"The word is out that Devante Jordan is a snitch," Fayette said. "The biggest snitch in Anchorage."

Jordan and Harris both ended up spending time at McLaughlin Youth Center after the January 2011 arrest. They were both released just prior to turning 19, setting the stage for a confrontation at the small party in the Richmond Avenue apartment.

It was smoky inside when they got there, Dionte Wren testified Wednesday. Wren, Jones-Nelson and Topps went to a bedroom while another group, including Jordan, stayed in a main room, Wren said. Then Jordan came into the room, and he and Jones-Nelson -- known as "Q" -- started arguing, Wren said

"Put words in Q's mouth. What did he say?" Fayette asked, pressing Wren to remember.

"(He said), 'I heard you were snitching on somebody," Wren said. "I was trying to roll a blunt, so I wasn't paying attention to the argument."

Jordan showed up uninvited, said Jones-Nelson's lawyer, Jon-Marc Petersen, in his opening statement Monday. Jones-Nelson did not want to talk to Jordan -- his client's plan was to "drink some Hennessy (cognac), smoke a blunt, just hang out and kick it," Petersen said.

"He doesn't care if he's a snitch," Petersen said. "He's not crazy about that, but he doesn't have an invested interest in that agenda."

Jones-Nelson told Jordan he would talk to Jordan about the issue later, Wren said. But Jones-Nelson told Harris, "Go get your homeboy," and about 10 or 15 seconds later Jordan came back with more attitude, standing over Jones-Nelson, Wren said.

Jordan was a fighter, Petersen told the jury.

"You'll hear testimony that Devante's good with his fists. ... He uses them often. You'll hear testimony that he's consistently armed," Petersen told the jury. "I anticipate you're going to hear testimony it was common knowledge on the street that Devante Jordan shot and killed Desirae Douglas."

During a prior incident, Jordan "sucker-punched" Jones-Nelson, knocking him unconscious, Petersen said.

Wren, on the witness stand Wednesday, said Jordan was acting aggressive.

"I was looking at Marquinn's face. He looked kind of scared, like he was threatened or something, like he didn't know what to do," Wren said. "Marquinn pulled a gun out of nowhere and just started shooting."

NOT SURVIVABLE

Jones-Nelson fired six bullets from the "rusty, old, snub-nosed" .38-caliber revolver, Fayette said. The first round hit Jordan in the middle of his chest, Fayette said. The second pierced his side, his lung, his heart and his aorta, the prosecutor said.

"It's not a survivable shot, folks," Fayette said.

Jones-Nelson shot four more times, hitting Jordan in the buttocks as he tried to get away, Fayette said. "The only reason he only shot him six times is he didn't have a gun with more bullets in it."

Jordan collapsed in the dining area, and Jones-Nelson, Wren, and Topps left in a car driven by Jones-Nelson's girlfriend, Wren testified.

"Everybody was pretty much quiet. Nobody said nothing. I had them drop me off at my mom's house," he said.

At one point during the drive, Wren said, he asked what happened.

"I just smoked D," Jones-Nelson replied, according to Wren.

Police officers tried to resuscitate Jordan, but he died in their arms, Fayette said.

Later, Jones-Nelson showed the revolver, wrapped in a sock, to a woman, who told police he dropped it near a covered bridge on the Anchorage Hillside, Fayette said. Police found the .38 in the Rabbit Creek area, he said. Shell casings also in the sock linked the gun to the bullets shot at Jordan, including one that popped out of his body and fell on the floor during his autopsy, the prosecutor said.

As detectives began to narrow in on Jones-Nelson, Topps and Harris, they convinced an informant to allow them to record her conversation with Jones-Nelson, who was looking for forged identification documents so he could leave Anchorage, Fayette said.

"In that recording, Mr. Jones-Nelson tells the informant, 'Guy came up to me like he wanted to box, and I popped him right there,'" Fayette said.

Through the informant, undercover police officers set up a meeting with Jones-Nelson and arrested him and Topps, Fayette said.

After the arrest, in March 2011, federal authorities charged Jones-Nelson with dealing crack cocaine. He pleaded guilty, and a judge sentenced him to eight years in prison in that case.

Jones-Nelson faces up to 99 years behind bars if the jury convicts him of murder in Jordan's killing. The trial is expected to last another two weeks or more.

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

 


By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com