Judge to de­liver ver­dict in death of West Ch­ester man

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Alex Rose arose@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @arosedelco on Twit­ter

ME­DIA COURT­HOUSE >> Judge Gre­gory Mal­lon will de­liver a ver­dict next Fri­day in the trial of a man ac­cused of fa­tally shoot­ing 27-year-old Joseph Tor­res last year out­side a Ch­ester gas sta­tion.

Ley­ron D. Johns, 20, of the 800 block of West Fifth Street, is charged with mur­der in the first, sec­ond and third de­gree, rob­bery, theft by un­law­ful tak­ing and pos­ses­sion of a con­trolled sub­stance with in­tent to de­liver for the July 27, 2015, shoot­ing death of Tor­res at the Mano’s Gulf sta­tion in the 900 block of Ker­lin Street.

Code­fen­dant Ron­ald My­ers, 23, pled guilty last month to charges of third-de­gree mur­der, rob­bery, and con­spir­acy to de­liver a con­trolled sub­stance, and tes­ti­fied against Johns at a bench trial this week.

My­ers, who is sched­uled for sen­tenc­ing Nov. 18, claimed Johns used his phone ear­lier in the day to set up a drug deal where he would sell Tor­res Per­co­cet. Text mes­sages al­legedly sent be­tween Tor­res and Johns set­ting up the deal in­di­cated the vic­tim was go­ing to buy 20 or 30 pills of 30mg Per­co­cet at $20 apiece.

My­ers said a meet­ing was ar­ranged at Ninth and Ker­lin streets. My­ers and Johns walked to the meet­ing lo­ca­tion and al­legedly ran into Tor­res at Sixth and Ker­lin. Tor­res, 27, a union car­pen­ter and mar­ried fa­ther from West Ch­ester, pointed out where he had parked his 2005 Dodge pickup truck as the trio was walk­ing to find a suit­able lo­ca­tion for the deal, My­ers said. Tor­res also al­legedly men­tioned park­ing the truck at a nearby A-Plus store in texts.

My­ers said Tor­res showed him a pic­ture of the pills he was seek­ing on his phone after they reached the Gulf sta­tion. My­ers said he had a pill bot­tle con­tain­ing un­known pills in his hand that Johns had pro­vided, but he never showed them to Tor­res. My­ers said Tor­res then walked over to Johns and showed him the pic­ture as well.

“Next thing I know, Ley­ron pulls the gun out,” said My­ers. “He has it to the back of (Tor­res’) head. Tor­res is mov­ing, I tells him if he got any­thing to give it up and Ley­ron shoots him.”

My­ers said Johns was the first to de­mand Tor­res empty his pock-

ets and Tor­res al­legedly re­sponded that he only had a few dol­lars and his phone.

The two men be­gan to flee the scene after the shoot­ing, but My­ers said Johns re­turned to Tor­res and fished his truck keys out of his pocket. My­ers said he threw the pill bot­tle on the roof of a nearby Sunoco and Johns handed him the keys to Tor­res’ truck.

My­ers, rep­re­sented by de­fense at­tor­ney Tay­lor Dunn, said he took the truck to an al­ley at Sec­ond and Union streets, then walked back to Fifth Street with Johns, where they parted ways.

Johns dis­puted that se­ries of events in a taped in­ter­view with Delaware County De­tec­tive Adam Sen­dak and Ch­ester Po­lice Cpl. Wil­liam Carey last year.

Ac­cord­ing to Johns, My­ers came to a friend’s house July 27 and said he had a buyer for Per­co­cet pills. Johns said My­ers asked him to walk to the meet­ing spot with him be­cause My­ers – who he re­ferred to as “Ron Gees” – did not have the pills and

in­tended to rob the buyer.

“The guy didn’t have no money, so I guess he was try­ing to burn Gees,” said Johns. “So Gees told me pull out the gun. I pulled out the gun and I said to the guy, ‘Just give it to him.’ And the guy said, ‘I don’t got it.’ So Gees tell me – he said, ‘Shoot him.’”

Johns said he balked at first, but My­ers told him that if he did not shoot, Tor­res would re­port them to the po­lice for an at­tempted rob­bery.

“So I shot the guy,” said Johns. “Gees said, ‘Get his keys,’ so I grab his keys and I give them to Gees.”

Johns claimed My­ers wanted to try to sell the truck on the street. Sen­dak said Johns de­nied be­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of PCP at the time of the shoot­ing, but he later claimed to have taken Xanax that night.

Johns also claimed in the in­ter­view that he was afraid of My­ers, who he said had a rep­u­ta­tion for hurt­ing peo­ple. Johns said in the record­ing that he was afraid his fam­ily might be in dan­ger if My­ers was ar­rested for at­tempted rob­bery due to Tor­res re­port­ing the in­ci­dent.

De­fense at­tor­ney Wil­liam Wis­mer ar­gued in clos­ing Fri­day that video sur­veil­lance that cap­tured the shoot­ing did not clearly show whether Johns ac­tu­ally went into Tor­res’ pock­ets after he was shot or if his keys were on the ground. In ei­ther in­stance, he said Tor­res was al­ready un­con­scious by that point and the ac­tion of tak­ing his keys was an af­ter­thought.

“The idea of rob­bing this man was not part of the plan,” said Wis­mer. “They were go­ing to go and scam him. They were go­ing to go show him some pills that they thought he would take, get his money and leave. There was never

any dis­cus­sion of a rob­bery.”

Wis­mer noted My­ers tes­ti­fied that Johns kept say­ing, “Back up” be­fore he fired, in­di­cat­ing Tor­res re­al­ized he was be­ing scammed and was an­gry about it. My­ers claimed he was go­ing to run when the gun came out, but Wis­mer pointed to the video, which shows My­ers is push­ing on Tor­res’ chest and not al­low­ing him to leave.

Se­nior Deputy District At­tor­ney Michael McDe­vitt agreed with Wis­mer that Johns and My­ers in­tended to scam Tor­res from the be­gin­ning, but said it went fur­ther than that.

“It was their in­ten­tion all along that this was go­ing to be a rob­bery,” he said.

McDe­vitt pointed to video sur­veil­lance that clearly shows Tor­res with his hands up as Johns and My­ers ap­pear to make de­mands of him.

That Tor­res was killed in the com­mis­sion of an al­leged rob­bery would make his death a sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, but McDe­vitt also ar­gued Johns fired the re­volver with mal­ice and the spe­cific in­tent to kill Tor­res, mak­ing it first-de­gree mur­der.

Johns claimed My­ers wanted to try to sell the truck on the street. Sen­dak said Johns de­nied be­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of PCP at the time of the shoot­ing, but he later claimed to have taken Xanax that night

Ley­ron Johns

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