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Eyewitness: York double-homicide victims were robbing defendant of heroin
An admitted former York City heroin dealer known as "Q" took the witness stand Wednesday at the double-murder trial of Dejerek Basil Smallwood, who "Q" unwittingly led into a drug deal that went bad and ended in the shooting deaths of two Manchester Township men.
Smallwood, 23, known as "Diego," maintains he fatally shot Derek Ferree and Braydon Aldinger in self-defense because they were robbing and attacking him.
In April, Smallwood withdrew his negotiated guilty plea to two counts of voluntary manslaughter because he believed he could convince a jury he is innocent, according to defense attorney Dawn Cutaia, who is jointly representing him with fellow attorney Suzanne Smith. Withdrawing his manslaughter plea is a gamble for Smallwood because it means he faces conviction on first- or third-degree murder.
According to York City Police and trial testimony, Laquan "Q" Pierrelouis and Smallwood agreed to meet up with Arianna Tavares to sell her heroin. Tavares brought along Ferree and Aldinger, and she testified she thought the men planned to exchange money and bath salts for Pierrelouis' heroin.
Under cross-examination she repeatedly denied she, Ferree and Aldinger planned to rob Pierrelouis and Smallwood, despite having repeatedly made that assertion to police in the days after the double homicide.
17 phone calls: Pierrelouis testified he'd known Tavares a few months and sold her heroin. She called him about 17 times on Nov. 23, 2013, looking for drugs, Pierrelouis confirmed.
He said he sent Smallwood to act as his middleman and sell Tavares some heroin, but Pierrelouis said he ended up going to the meeting spot near her home when Smallwood couldn't find her.
At first, he and Smallwood helped her throw some furniture off her balcony because she was moving out of her apartment, he said.
Then Tavares, Ferree, 26, and Aldinger, 23, started walking with Pierrelouis and Smallwood down West Mason Avenue to do the dug deal, he said.
"I guess they didn't want to do the transaction in front of the house," Pierrelouis said, adding he didn't know the men. He told jurors he walked ahead of the group in case Ferree and Aldinger were undercover cops.
'Sucker-punched': "The next thing I knew, one of the guys sucker-punched Dejerek ... in the face," Pierrelouis testified. "They was just, like, attacking him. ... It was so fast."
One of the men then turned his attention to Pierrelouis and threw a punch, according to Pierrelouis, who said he started to tussle with the man.
"I broke free and started running back home," he testified.
A few seconds later, he heard gunshots, but kept running, he said. In fact, he said he left the state when he heard he was wanted for the double homicide.
"It was a robbery," Pierrelouis told jurors during cross-examination by defense attorney Dawn Cutaia. "You wouldn't be fighting if you really wanted to purchase (drugs)."
His assertion conflicts with the prosecution's version of events. First assistant district attorney Jennifer Russell told jurors during her opening statement Monday that there was no robbery, merely a scuffle between the four men.
'Shocked': Pierrelouis confirmed to Cutaia that he was shocked to be the target of a robbery, because he didn't think it could happen.
"Not to me," he said.
Pierrelouis had been charged with first- and third-degree murder as well as conspiracy to deliver drugs, but the first-degree murder charge was withdrawn so he could be released from prison on house arrest, he confirmed from the witness stand. He also said the first-degree charge could be reinstated against him, but is hoping both murder charges will be dropped.
He said he's expecting consideration on his charges from prosecutors in exchange for a time-served sentence.
Trial is expected to resume Thursday morning.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.