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Jury finds York City man guilty of first-degree murder
Jurors found a York City man guilty of two counts of first-degree murder Friday for a November 2013 shooting during a drug deal that went bad.
Dejerek Basil Smallwood, 23, of York City, was found guilty of murdering Derek Ferree and Braydon Aldinger.
In Pennsylvania, a first-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence.
The trial: Smallwood said he killed Ferree and Aldinger in self-defense during a heroin deal because they were attacking him. In April, Smallwood admitted to manslaughter in a negotiated plea deal, but withdrew his plea deal because he thought he could convince a jury of his innocence. During her opening statement Monday afternoon, First Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Russell told jurors Ferree, Aldinger and Arianna Tavares wanted to buy heroin from Tavares' regular drug dealer, Laquan Pierrelouis, known as "Q."
They met on West Mason Avenue, a York City alley, on Nov. 23, 2013, and a fist fight erupted, with Ferree and Aldinger on one side and Smallwood and Pierrelous on the other, Russell said. Smallwood's defense attorney Dawn Cutaia, who represents him along with attorney Suzanne Smith, said earlier this week the plan for Ferree and Aldinger was to rob Smallwood during a drug deal. She said he was attacked and he shot the men after they tried to reach into his pocket. She said he had a gun in his left pocket and didn't want them to use it against him.
First assistant district attorney Jennifer Russell argued Smallwood shot his attackers instead of running away from the scene, taking the lives of Ferree and Aldinger in the process. That, according to Russell, makes the deaths murders and not justifiable self-defense shootings.
The verdict: The jury announced its verdict to a packed courtroom shortly after 4 p.m.
Smallwood was visibly upset by the decision, putting his head down briefly after it was announced.
"We're disappointed with the verdict," Smith said after the trial.
Russell said she is happy the verdict brought closure to the families.
"We're satisfied with the verdict and appreciate the work the jury did on the case," she said.
Smallwood's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18. He faces the mandatory life sentence.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org