Man found guilty of mur­der in Elk­ton shoot­ing

Faces sen­tence of life in prison

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— A man ac­cused of gun­ning down a ri­val in an Elk­ton neigh­bor­hood in Oc­to­ber 2015 is now fac­ing a life sen­tence in prison af­ter a jury found him guilty of a felony mur­der and a firearm charge.

Jurors de­lib­er­ated ap­prox­i­mately three hours on Thurs­day be­fore find­ing the de­fen­dant, Nikel Shy­heim Hicks, 22, of the 200

ELK­TON

block of Mike Court in Elk­ton, guilty of first-de­gree mur­der, which in­cludes the el­e­ment of pre­med­i­ta­tion, and pos­ses­sion of a hand­gun at the con­clu­sion of a four-day Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court trial.

The jury found Hicks “not guilty” of pos­ses­sion of a hand­gun in the com­mis­sion of a felony or a crime, an ac­quit­tal that is in­con­sis­tent with the guilty ver­dict that it re­turned.

Sen­tenc­ing is ten­ta­tively set for Jan­uary.

Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court Ad­min­is­tra­tive Judge Keith A. Baynes, who had presided over the trial, or­dered Hicks to re­main in the county jail with­out bond un­til sen­tenc­ing.

Hicks fa­tally shot Gre­gory Sam­mons-Bur­ris, 24, in the head and neck about 1:45 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2015, in a grassy patch be­tween two rows of town­houses in the 100 block of Goose­neck Court in Elk­ton.

In her open­ing state­ment, As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney Pa­tri­cia Fitzger­ald cau­tioned jurors that in­ves­ti­ga­tors were un­able to

find any­one who wit­nessed Hicks shoot Sam­mon­sBur­ris. Nor had a mo­tive for the fa­tal shoot­ing been es­tab­lished, she said.

But Fitzger­ald, who pros­e­cuted the case with As­sis­tant State’s At­tor­ney Amanda Bes­sicks, then told the jury that pros­e­cu­tors pos­sessed recorded tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions be­tween Hicks and sev­eral peo­ple in which he made ar­range­ments to ob­tain am­mu­ni­tion within hours be­fore the fa­tal shoot­ing.

Pros­e­cu­tors en­tered Hicks’ recorded phone con­ver­sa­tions and ac­com­pa­ny­ing tran­scripts of them into ev­i­dence dur­ing the trial.

In the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions recorded af­ter the fa­tal shoot­ing, Hicks made ef­forts to re­cruit peo­ple, in­clud­ing his mother, to re­trieve the gun — a sil­ver .380-cal­iber au­to­matic hand­gun — that had been stashed in the ceil­ing joints of a laun­dry room in­side a Mal­lard Court res­i­dence, which is part of an ad­join­ing neigh­bor­hood and is a short walk­ing dis­tance from the mur­der scene.

Con­fi­den­tial sources had told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Hicks had a “ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship” with a woman who lived at the Mal­lard Court res­i­dence and that he some­times stayed there.

Those recorded phone con­ver­sa­tions are the prod­uct of an un­der­cover Ce­cil County Drug Task Force in­ves­ti­ga­tion that had started months be­fore the fa­tal shoot­ing; and, as part of it, covert agents had ob­tained court-ap­proved wire­taps on Hicks’ phone. Af­ter the mur­der, covert agents re­ceived court ap­proval to con­tinue the wire­taps.

Hicks stands ac­cused in that CCDTF case of trans­port­ing at least 10,000 bags of heroin into Ce­cil County weekly dur­ing a six-month pe­riod, po­lice of­fi­cials re­cently told the Ce­cil Whig.

As a re­sult of that pro­tracted covert in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Hicks is charged with dis­tri­bu­tion of heroin and two re­lated of­fenses, ac­cord­ing to court records, which list his of­fense dates as Sept. 29, 2015, two weeks be­fore the mur­der, and Oct. 11, a day be­fore the homi­cide. Hicks’ drug trial is set for Feb. 7.

Det. Sgt. Ken­neth Rus­sell, su­per­vi­sor of the drug task force, tes­ti­fied at trial re­gard­ing how and why the taped con­ver­sa­tions came into ex­is­tence. Rus­sell also in­ter­preted the street slang used in the recorded con­ver­sa­tions played in the court­room for the jurors.

In a phone con­ver­sa­tion taped at 8:12 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2015, less than six hours be­fore the mur­der, Hicks asks an un­known man in street slang, “You don’t got no johns (bul­lets) for a .380 (cal­iber hand­gun) do ya?” and the man on the other end replies, “Nah ... but I can prob­a­bly get some.”

Then in a recorded phone con­ver­sa­tion at 9:34 p.m., now less than five hours be­fore the mur­der, Hicks tells a man, “Hey, bro, Ima (I’m go­ing to) need to go to Wal­mart and buy some um ... some of them things again.”

Be­cause Elk­ton Po­lice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors had re­cov­ered spent .380- cal­iber Fed­eral brand bul­let cas­ings at the mur­der scene, de­tec­tives went to sev­eral nearby stores to check on re­cent sales of Fed­eral bul­lets.

Video gleaned from a sur­veil­lance cam­era at the Wal­mart in the North­east Plaza shows Hicks and the man, whom in­ves­ti­ga­tors rec­og­nized, to­gether pur­chas­ing .380-cal­iber Fed­eral bul­lets about 11:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2015, some two hours be­fore the mur­der.

The man, who was not charged, later told de­tec­tives that he had picked up Hicks — who he knew only by the street name “Nike” — in the area of Goose­neck Court, drove him to Wal­mart to buy the am­mu­ni­tion for Hicks and then re­turned to Goose­neck Court to drop him off.

In that phone con­ver­sa­tion recorded at 9:34 p.m., Hicks in­structs the man to “come to Goose­neck” to pick him up.

Af­ter de­vel­op­ing in­for­ma­tion that Hicks some­times stayed at the nearby Mal­lard Court res­i­dence, EPD in­ves­ti­ga­tors raided that house about 6 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2015, some 16 hours af­ter the mur­der, and con­fis­cated a sil­ver .380-cal­iber au­to­matic hand­gun — which they found in the ceil­ing joints in the laun­dry room. The gun had sev­eral Fed­eral brand bul­lets in the mag­a­zine and one in the cham­ber.

On Thurs­day, Jessie Camp­bell, a civil­ian firearm tool mark ex­am­iner with the Mary­land State Po­lice Foren­sic Science Di­vi­sion, tes­ti­fied that the .380-cal­iber hand­gun re­cov­ered at the Mal­lard Court res­i­dence was the same weapon that fired the Fed­eral bul­lets that killed Sam­mons-Bur­ris.

In recorded phone con­ver­sa­tions that oc­curred while the raid was tak­ing place, Hicks asks one man to re­trieve the hand­gun, prompt­ing him to ask, “How am I get it out, bro?” to which Hicks re­sponds, “I don’t know man, wait til they (po­lice) clear out. Bro, you gotta do it.”

Then the man asks Hicks where he would find the gun.

“It’s in the laun­dry room, like up top some junk,” Hicks says.

The man then asks, “You think they go­ing to find it?”

“Prob­a­bly ... That’s sticky if they find it, ain’t it?”

Hicks then asks the man to find some­one to di­vert the at­ten­tion of the raid­ing po­lice of­fi­cers.

“Tell some­body to make a dis­trac­tion, bro, shoot in the air or do some­thing, bro. We need some dis­trac­tions, bro,” Hicks says. No one obliged, how­ever. In a phone con­ver­sa­tion recorded at 7:33 p.m. on Oct. 12, Hicks asks his mother to help him, start­ing their talk by ask­ing, “Hey, mom, you go over there yet?” which she hadn’t.

“I wish you would lis­ten to me. I re­ally wish you would just start lis­ten­ing to me when I tell you to do some­thing ... Do you re­mem­ber where I said it was?”

Hicks then asks his mother, “Do you think they gonna find that?”

His mother an­swers, “I hope not. Start pray­ing to Al­lah.”

Hicks, who was cap­tured by U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice agents in Philadel­phia 16 days af­ter the mur­der, de­clined to tes­tify in his own de­fense on Thurs­day.

His de­fense at­tor­ney, Mar­garet Meade, of Bal­ti­more, had main­tained in open­ing and clos­ing ar­gu­ments that no one saw the fa­tal shoot­ing and, there­fore, pros­e­cu­tors lacked di­rect eye­wit­ness ev­i­dence against Hicks.

Meade also con­tended that, in those covertly recorded phone con­ver­sa­tions, Hicks never said that he planned to shoot any­one and, af­ter the fa­tal shoot­ing, he never told any­one that he was the shooter.

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

An Elk­ton Po­lice Depart­ment de­tec­tive searches for ev­i­dence in the grassy patch be­tween two rows of town­houses on Goose­neck Court, hours af­ter the fa­tal Oct. 12, 2015 shoot­ing there. On Thurs­day, a jury found the man charged in the case guilty of first-de­gree mur­der.

HICKS

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