Murder suspects on hold
Four teens accused of killing an 18-year-old Dale City man in April have yet to have a day in court despite objection from defense attorneys.
A preliminary hearing for the four men was scheduled for Thursday in Prince William General District Court and was continued a second time, again on a motion made by the commonwealth.
Charles Stephson Zimmerman, 18, of 16739 Sweeny Lane in Lake Ridge; Colante Devon Mason, 19, of 2000 Sequoia Court in Woodbridge; and Nana Djobeng “Chief” Yaw, 19, and Vincent Antonio White Jr., 19, both of 2939 Madeira Court in Lake Ridge, are suspected to have shot Matthew Allan Ruane twice in the head on* April 29, police said.
Ruane died in front of his home in the 14500 block of Bakersfield Street, off Forestdale Avenue. Police have said the motive was robbery.
Police charged the men May 12 with murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Koscelecky asked a Prince William General District Court judge if the hearing could be continued until September, and recommended the men be let out on personal recognizance, with certain conditions such as a daily check-in.
Koscelecky asked for an additional continuance because he said he was waiting on approximately eight hours of videotaped interviews to be transcribed by the FBI.
“Is it in the best interest that these people be essentially at large for that long?” asked Judge Wenda K. Travers, who asked to see the men’s criminal records. “They are looking at murder charges. I don’t think they meet the requirements for bond. I am going to object to putting these people out on personal recognizance.”
Travers agreed to allow the continuance on the contingency so a hearing could be heard before the next grand jury, which will meet Aug. 5.
On all four cases, the defendants agreed on setting a date of July 29 for preliminary hearings. If at that time it is found there is reasonable evidence to send the case forward it would go before the grand jury. The grand jury will determine if the case should proceed to Prince William Circuit Court for trial.
“I have been here for two months,” said Yaw in court as he objected to a second continuance to his case. “They [police and prosecutors] have had three months. They said they had an eyewitness, they are lying. There ain’t no eye witness here. They know by now that we didn’t do it, and last time the judge said it couldn’t be continued again. I have already been here two months for nothing.
“It is a long time until the 29th. This is bad, really, because the last time the judge said they couldn’t continue it again.”
All four teens had family members and friends sitting in the courtroom, some of whom had to be asked to leave for making comments while court was in session.
Zimmerman was not only facing a murder charge and use of a firearm, but also two drug charges and a charge of credit card fraud. The latter charges were dismissed because of the continuances.
According to police reports, Zimmerman was said to be driver of the vehicle on the night of the shooting; however, his attorney Blake Woloson said that was not the case.
“We believe an innocent man is being held,” Woloson said. “He has an alibi and that alibi has been checked out by the police department.”
Mason’s attorney, Mark Crossland, said following the hearing that he had been in contact with a woman who was at the scene, and who identified four other men, none of whom are currently charged.
“A woman has told detectives that there is another shooter and that are looking for him right now,” Crossland stated in court as he tried to get his client out on a $20,000 bond. “This man has an almost pure criminal record with the exception of possession of marijuana … If you look at the criminal records [in this case] I don’t see how any evidence is even connecting him here.”
After the judge denied any type of bond, Koscelecky stood by the charges.
“The reason we weren’t on top of him [Mason] the night [the shooting] happened is because it takes awhile to get this information so we can make sure we don’t arrest the wrong guys like everyone seems to think we have.”
The judge ordered that the prosecution must have copies of the taped interviews to defense attorneys by July 19.