Man Suspected Of Gunning Down NJ College Student Brendan Tevlin Pleads Not Guilty
NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A man sought in two murders in Washington state has pleaded not guilty to killing a college student in West Orange.
Ali Muhammad Brown, 29, is one of three suspects who appeared Wednesday afternoon in state Superior Court in Newark.
The three are charged in the murder of 19-year-old Brendan Tevlin, of Livingston, on June 25.
Brown was wanted by police in Seattle in the shooting deaths of two young men. He faces aggravated murder charges there and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Washington state authorities say a decision on which jurisdiction would try Brown first is likely to be made in a few days. A death penalty decision would come later.
Brown didn’t speak during Wednesday’s brief hearing.
Tevlin, who had just completed his first year at the University of Richmond, was found dead in his family’s Jeep parked at a West Orange apartment building.
According to investigators, Tevlin was sitting at a traffic light on his way home from visiting a friend when he was surrounded by strangers who robbed and killed him.
Brown pulled the trigger, prosecutors said. Jeremy Villagran, 19, and Eric Williams, 18, acted as his accomplices, authorities said. All three suspects face murder, robbery and weapons charges.
“They surrounded (the Jeep) on foot,” Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray said at a news conference Monday announcing the arrests. “One individual interacted briefly with Brendan Tevlin and then, from the passenger side of that vehicle, shot at him 10 times, striking him eight times.”
Investigators say Brown then drove Tevlin’s vehicle to an apartment complex on Northfield Avenue, where he stole undisclosed items from the victim.
A resident of that complex said that Villigran was his neighbor. He was shocked by his alleged involvement in the case.
“I am surprised because he was a good kid as far as I know. He never did anything wrong,” Pat DiPasquale said.
U.S. marshals were on the hunt for Brown, a registered sex offender, and knew he was staying somewhere in New Jersey. He was arrested in the woods in West Orange, where he was living, authorities said.
Brown had a gun that matched the one used in Tevlin’s killing, prosecutors said. The same weapon was allegedly used in an armed robbery that took place in Point Pleasant Beach just days before Tevlin was killed, CBS 2’s Matt Kozar reported.
Brown’s bail was set at $5 million, WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported. Villagran and Williams are each being held on $1 million bail.
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