Ch­ester man con­victed for mur­der of W.C. man

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Rose Quinn rquinn@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @rquin­ndelco on Twit­ter

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.

Ley­ron Johns

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