More than a decade after the body of a 23-year-old Centennial man was found early one morning in a suburban neighborhood, with a single bullet wound to the back, authorities have arrested a man they allege was the shooter.
And, unlike other suspects in the killing, whose cases were long kept out of public view, the case against the alleged shooter is proceeding publicly. Those details provide a closer look at a murder that had been shrouded in mystery for years.
Andrew Graham, a University of Colorado graduate who was headed to 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, an area that sees little violent crime.
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.
Statements to authorities from other suspects in the case going back to 2009 have pointed to Terrell O’Neil Jones as the shooter, according to a March 10 affidavit that an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office investigator submitted to request a warrant for his arrest. Jones was arrested that day, KCNC-CBS4 reported.
Jones has repeatedly denied to investigators that he was involved in Graham’s death.
But four other suspects who admitted to being at the crime scene that night told investigators that Jones shot Graham, the affidavit said. They all described a plot to rob Graham, whom they saw as “a white male who might have money,” the affidavit says. Jones and three other suspects are African-American. One suspect, Joseph Martin, is listed as American Indian on the state Department of Corrections website.
Jones “pulled out a pistol and tried to rob the guy but the guy wouldn’t let him so Terrell Jones shot him,” investigators quoted one of the co-suspects as saying in the affidavit.
A 2016 Arapahoe County grand jury in the case of Graham’s death indicted Clarissa Jae Lockhart, Allen Deshawn Ford, Kendall Adam Austin and Martin. The four were arrested in January 2017 in connection with Graham’s death.
That came after a previous grand jury called in 2011 stated that it lacked enough evidence to recommend trial of any suspects in the case after about 18 months that saw testimony from 63 witnesses and more than 100 exhibits of evidence, including photos, transcripts and recordings.
Of those four suspects, three agreed to testify regarding Graham’s death and pleaded guilty to related charges, while the fourth had charges against him dismissed, according to the affidavit.
String of Denver crimes
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.
Neil Silver, a defense attorney for one of the defendants, has said in court that prosecutors opted for charges in the Graham case under an organized-crime law for some of the defendants based on suspicion of involvement in black-youth gangs targeting white people.
Cases against the four suspects other than Jones were suppressed until recently, meaning no documents in the cases were available to the public. For all four, the prosecution requested the case files be made public on March 12, and Judge Michael Spear ordered the files unsuppressed April 14.
Because Jones’ case was not brought by a grand jury, documents in his case weren’t suppressed. Grand juries are sometimes used to decide if authorities have enough evidence to charge a suspect.
Jones was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree felony murder, according to court records. He had a status conference hearing scheduled April 30, but it was rescheduled to June 10 amid delays due to COVID-19 precautions, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Jones’ arrest affidavit filled in blanks that had persisted for years in the account of what happened to Graham on Nov. 5, 2009. Here’s a look at the events, according to the March 10 affidavit.
Graham got a ride from his father to the light rail station near Dry Creek Road and Interstate 25 in the afternoon. According to his father, Graham planned to ride the train to downtown Denver and transfer to a bus to Boulder to meet with a former roommate to discuss living with him again.
After eating with his then-current roommates at a Boulder restaurant, Graham got dropped off at a nearby park-and-ride location to catch a bus to Denver.
At about 11:40 p.m., video surveillance captured Graham riding the light rail and exiting at the station near Park Meadows mall in Lone Tree, near Centennial. Nearby parking lot surveillance footage shows him walking west through the lot and down County Line Road until he was out of sight on the recordings. He walked with a satchel that authorities later found. A police dog later tracked Graham’s path a short distance into the Willow Creek neighborhood nearby, north of County Line, the affidavit said.
As for Jones’ alleged role, his four co-suspects spoke with Arapahoe sheriff’s deputies, a Denver police detective and an 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office investigator, and in grand jury testimony, and had this to say, according to the March 10 affidavit:
• Martin said in the 2016 grand jury proceedings that he went to the area of Park Meadows with Ford, Lockhart, Austin and Jones to rob someone since there were too many police on the 16th Street Mall.
• Martin told authorities in 2017 he was with Ford, Jones, Lockhart and Austin when they approached Graham to rob him. He said they saw he had a bag and thought he might have a laptop. Martin said that Jones shot Graham and then took the bag, according to the affidavit.
• Ford told authorities in 2015 that he, Lockhart, Jones and Martin were present during the homicide. Ford said they followed Graham, asked him for money, somebody hit him and then Jones shot him, the affidavit said.
• Lockhart told authorities that she was with Ford and Jones near Park Meadows mall and approached Graham, and Jones shot him, according to the affidavit. It said that in 2015, she said Ford called out to Graham, Graham began to run and they chased him, and Jones shot him.
• Austin testified in the 2011 grand jury that Ford told him that he, Lockhart and Jones were in Centennial and Jones pulled out a pistol and tried to rob Graham, but Graham wouldn’t let Jones, so Jones shot him, the affidavit said. Austin later said he ran into the others near Park Meadows mall after he took the light rail there with his cousin.
• Ford and Jones pulled the satchel from Graham, and it was later thrown out the window of the suspects’ car, Martin told authorities, as relayed in the affidavit.
Graham’s body was found about a block south of some of his belongings. Credit cards and a cell phone were found in his satchel there, according to authorities. His money was still in his wallet when his body was discovered. His glasses lay a few steps away from him, and his hat lay a short distance away.
Physical evidence lacking
Jones — who apparently first spoke to authorities in 2010 — has acknowledged to investigators that he knew the co-defendants but has denied involvement in Graham’s death on multiple occasions.
Jones said Ford was his best friend but that they had a falling out recently. He also said Lockhart “doesn’t like him,” the affidavit says.
Jones has several criminal convictions resulting from guilty pleas since 2013, according to the 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, the affidavit does not mention any physical evidence that points to any of the defendants.
In 2009, Graham’s satchel was submitted for testing, and DNA profiles were found on the handle, the flaps and the shoulder strap, all of which contain a mixture of DNA. Authorities said they also found a DNA mixture on the pocket of Graham’s jeans.
Authorities took swabs from the five defendants, and all were excluded as potential contributors to the DNA mixture found on Graham’s satchel as well as on his clothes. Numerous other suspects were investigated, and their potential involvement could not be corroborated.
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.
Graham was killed by a single bullet wound to his back, and no bullet, bullet fragment or shell casing was located.