Alleged shooter in 2009 Andrew Graham homicide to face trial

Terrell O'Neil Jones ID'd as gunman by suspects, but physical evidence lacking

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Nearly 11 years after a Centennial man was found fatally shot in a quiet suburban neighborhood, the man authorities allege is the shooter is set to face trial in a case that largely rests on the statements of other suspects who say they were at the scene.

A defense attorney hammered on what she argued are inconsistencies in the accounts of the four codefendants, whom authorities also charged with involvement in the scene that ended in the death of 23-year-old Andrew Graham.

“There is absolutely no physical evidence, forensic evidence, that connects Terrell Jones to murder of Andrew Graham,” attorney Evan Marcia Zuckerman said in court Oct. 27. “No fingerprints, no DNA, nothing shown on video surveillance; there's no firearm, no ballistics. So we are left with a case that is solely dependent on the statements of witnesses that all have problems with credibility.”

But Chris Wilcox, for the prosecution, argued that claims of uncertainty surrounding Jones are unfounded.

“There is one thing that is remarkably consistent across these (codefendants') statements, and that is that Jones is always at the center of the statements,” Wilcox said.

Jones faces charges of first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree felony murder, according to court records. Felony murder charges apply when death was allegedly caused by anyone in a group in connection with another serious crime. Other defendants in the case have described a plot to rob Graham.

After a hearing that spanned Oct. 26 and Oct. 27, an Arapahoe County District Court judge ruled that Jones would face trial.

Jones arrest follows others

Graham, a University of Colorado graduate who had plans for grad school, was found shot dead at about 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 6, 2009, in the front yard of a home in the Willow Creek neighborhood of Centennial near East County Line Road and South Yosemite Street.

A few hours earlier, just before midnight, video surveillance captured Graham riding an RTD light rail train and exiting at the station near Park Meadows mall in Lone Tree. Graham had been making living arrangements in Boulder that day and would often walk from the station to his parents' house in nearby Willow Creek a couple miles away, his mother told Colorado Community Media at the time.

Jones was arrested in March, KCNC-CBS4 reported. Jones was 16 years old at the time of the shooting.

A 2016 Arapahoe County grand jury indicted Clarissa Jae Lockhart, Allen Deshawn Ford, Kendall Adam Austin and Joseph Martin — also teenagers at the time of the shooting. The four were arrested in January 2017 in connection with Graham's death.

The codefendants described a plot to rob Graham, whom they saw as “a white male who might have money,” according to the affidavit for Jones' arrest. An affidavit is a document law enforcement officers write to pursue an arrest. Jones and three other suspects are African-American. One suspect, Joseph Martin, is listed as American Indian on the state Department of Corrections website.

Ford, Lockhart and Austin had been linked to a string of race-motivated robberies and assaults in downtown Denver in 2009, according to the affidavit and court proceedings in the Graham case. Suspects in that rash of crimes told police they targeted white males because they assumed they had money and wouldn't fight back or present a threat.

Lockhart and Austin pleaded guilty to attempted robbery in September 2009 incidents, and Ford pleaded guilty to a bias-motivated crime involving “bodily injury” and pleaded guilty to assault in August 2009 incidents, according to online court records.

'Different stories'

In court on Oct. 26, defense attorney Zuckerman described an investigator on the case as frustrated with “all the different stories Martin was giving” and that Martin “told so many stories back in the day that it's hard to keep them straight.”

Zuckerman recounted the investigator as saying, “It's confusing for us because you said this guy did it, and then this guy did it, and … we don't even know who's who.”

The attorney argued Ford's account of the night of the shooting was inconsistent and said that in an interview, Ford pointed to Lockhart as responsible, and when investigators replied that it was not her, Ford then said, “'Oh, Terrell, you want to hear Terrell,' essentially,” Zuckerman said.

Austin told authorities he “guesses” he was there and said, “I'll tell you that if that's what you want me to say,” Zuckerman recounted.

Austin's account that he saw the shooting happen when he stepped out of the light rail near Park Meadows conflicts with authorities' conclusion that the shooting occurred in a neighborhood to the north, Zuckerman argued.

Investigators told the codefendants that their cooperation would influence whether arrest warrants for murder would come down against them, Zuckerman said.

“Every suspect was threatened with a first-degree murder charge with an … arrest warrant, and not surprisingly, it didn't take long after those threats for the witnesses to give investigators what they wanted to hear, and what they wanted to hear is that Terrell Jones is the shooter,” Zuckerman argued.

She added: “We know that people act in self-protection. And when you're facing life in prison, you do what you need to do to protect yourself.”

Others recently spoke in court

Ford, who was in his late 20s this year, addressed the court at his Jan. 17 sentencing hearing. In quiet, low tones, he thanked his attorneys for their time on the case and said he was sorry for Graham's mother's loss.

Lockhart has said she was not involved in Graham's killing, according to her defense attorney. At her June 26 sentencing hearing, though, Lockhart appeared to admit involvement in the incident in general while addressing Graham's mother.

“I know there are no words that will bring Andrew Graham back,” said Lockhart at her hearing, visibly emotional at times. She added: “I'm just trying to be a better citizen in society. I can't take back anything I've done, but I truly am sorry, Mrs. Graham. I am sorry for my actions.”

The hearing for Jones this October was a preliminary hearing, where a court decides whether there is enough evidence to take the case to trial — it doesn't decide whether a suspect is guilty.

Wilcox, the prosecutor and chief deputy 18th Judicial District attorney, argued that “while the court heard voluminous statements about stories that changed,” Jones still may be found guilty by a jury. The 18th Judicial District includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties.

The codefendants “aren't just witnesses that came forward to make a statement,” Wilcox said. They are people who “put themselves as being involved in a crime.”

He added that Jones' name came up in authorities' random initial contact with Martin and again with statements from Lockhart in 2009.

“And that remains consistent” throughout the statements the codefendants made over the years, Wilcox said.

Connection to other defendants

Jones — who apparently first spoke to authorities in 2010 — has acknowledged to investigators that he knew the codefendants but has denied involvement in Graham's death on multiple occasions.

Jones said Ford was his best friend but that they had had a falling out recently. He also said Lockhart “doesn't like him,” the affidavit for Jones' arrest says.

He admitted to having a gun around the “2009 time frame,” according to the January 2017 indictment that led to the arrest of the other suspects. He indicated before the grand jury that Ford stole that gun from him at a party, the indictment says.

Zuckerman, the defense attorney, emphasized that Jones was not indicted in that grand jury process.

Jones has several criminal convictions resulting from guilty pleas since 2013, according to his arrest affidavit. They include possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, distributing a drug, theft of between $750 and $2,000, possession of a defaced firearm, and possession of a Schedule 1 controlled substance, a classification that includes hard drugs.

Despite the years it took to arrest Jones, his arrest affidavit did not mention any physical evidence that points to any of the defendants.

Authorities completed numerous forensic tests on the evidence between 2009 and 2017, and there was no conclusive forensic testing that led to Jones or any other suspect.

Judge Michael Spear noted that forensic evidence is not necessary to prove a crime. He also touched on the codefendants' credibility.

Regarding the codefendants, “I agree there's a lot of evidence out in the air and fertile grounds for examining these witnesses” at trial, Spear said in his decision.

But “all four of these codefendants … identified Jones as the (one) who shot Graham,” Spear said.

Spear also decided to continue to hold Jones in jail without bail. Jones' next hearing is set to be an arraignment on Dec. 11.

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