Chester man convicted for murder of W.C. man
Leyron D. Johns of Chester was convicted of robbing and murdering Joseph Torres of West Chester.
Joseph Torres, a 27-year-old West Chester father described in court as having made costly mistakes in life, did not have to die when he went to Chester to buy pills on July 27, 2015.
Leyron D. Johns, Senior Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDevitt said Friday following Johns’ murder conviction, “decided when and how Joe was to die.”
Johns, 20, of the 800 block of West Fifth Street in Chester, was convicted on charges of first-degree murder, robbery and possession of an instrument of crime following a four-day non-jury trial, which concluded Oct. 7. Family members of the defendant were in the courtroom as Common Pleas Court Judge J. Gregory Mallon returned his verdict Friday.
Johns was found not guilty of criminal conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.
Last month, co-defendant Ronald Myers entered open guilty pleas to charges including murder in the third degree, robbery and criminal conspiracy with Johns to deliver a controlled substance. He testified against Johns at the bench trial last week.
It was about 9:50 p.m. on July 27, 2015, when Torres was found by Chester police in the rear of Mano’s Gulf station in the 900 block of Kerlin Street. He was bleeding from the back of his head from a gunshot wound. Torres was transported to Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where he died on July 28
Through an investigation conducted by Detective Patrick Mullen of the Chester Police Department and Detective Adam Sendek of the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division, it was determined that Torres had been robbed and shot by Johns.
“As the robbery unfolded, Joe was murdered to prevent him from reporting the robbery to the police,” McDevitt said.
“Joe made poor decisions and mistakes in his young life, which cost him first his marriage, then his life. His last mistake was going to Chester to buy pills,” McDevitt said. “His biggest mistake was dealing with defendants Myers and Johns, the men who would soon rob and shoot him.”
Myers testified that Johns used his phone earlier in the day to set up a drug deal where he would sell Percocet to Torres – 20 or 30 pills of 30 mg Percocet at $20 apiece.
Myers said a meeting was arranged at Ninth and Kerlin streets in Chester. Myers and Johns walked to the agreed location and ran into Torres at Sixth and Kerlin. Torres, he said, pointed out where he had parked his 2005 Dodge pickup truck as the trio was walking to find a suitable location for the drug deal.
Myers said Torres showed him a picture of the pills he wanted on his phone, after they reached Mano’s 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 knew, Leyron pulls the gun out,” said Myers. “He has it to the back of (Torres’) head. Torres is moving. I tell him if he got anything to give it up and Leyron shoots him.”
According to Myers’ testimony, Johns was the first to demand Torres empty his pocket and Torres reportedly responded that he only had a few dollars and his phone.
After the shooting, Myers and Johns began to flee the scene, but Myers said Johns returned to Torres and removed 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 said he took the truck to an alley at Second and Union streets in Chester, and then walked back to Fifth Street with Johns, where they parted ways.
In a taped interview last year with investigators, Johns disputed Myers’ series of events.
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. Johns reportedly 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 on Oct. 7 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.
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.
Contacted at his office Friday afternoon, Wismer had no comment on the verdict.
According to his obituary, Torres was a union carpenter. He enjoyed playing basketball and loved spending time with his family, especially his daughter.
Torres’ mother and other family members were in the courtroom throughout the proceedings.
“They were very appreciative of our efforts,” Mullen said.
Sentencing for Myers and Johns is scheduled for Nov. 18 and Dec. 9, respectively.
“The idea of robbing this man was not part of the plan. 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.” — Defense attorney William Wismer McDevitt agreed with Wismer that Johns and Myers intended to scam Torres from the beginning, but said it went further than that.