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Murder suspects spoke about the crime on bus ride, witness says

Liz Evans Scolforo
717-505-5429/@LizScolforoYD

A prison inmate testified Wednesday he overheard two co-defendants in a West York homicide discussing the crime during a two-hour bus ride.

Carlos "Los" Johnson

Herley Stroman was one of the last prosecution witnesses called by chief deputy prosecutor David Maisch before Maisch rested his murder case against Carlos "Los" Johnson Wednesday morning.

Johnson, 36, of Chambersburg, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery for the shooting death of 41-year-old Lancelot Hylton in front of the victim's 1100 W. King St. home.

Stroman told jurors that Johnson and Ramon "Booper" Rosario Jr. were seated next to each other and directly behind him on the bus and were discussing the fatal shooting.

"(Johnson) was telling Rosario to man up and take responsibility for what he did," Stroman testified. "(Rosario) shot and killed this dude."

Ramon "Booper" Rosario Jr.

Stroman testified Johnson was saying "he should've never got involved with it from the get-go by giving Rosario a gun and going out there with him."

Third man charged: He also told jurors he overheard Johnson talking about David "Roc" Jackson, the third and now former co-defendant. The prosecution dropped all charges against Jackson, also known as "Shoota Man," on Monday.

"Basically I heard (Johnson) say the dude Roc didn't have anything to do with it," Stroman testified.

He said Johnson later expressed concern about ex-girlfriend Natalie Taylor — "that she was going to run her mouth" to police. Taylor testified Tuesday that Johnson told her he, Rosario and Jackson committed the crime together.

Although Stroman didn't say what kind of bus the men were riding on, he did tell jurors he overheard the bus conversation in February 2015 and was paroled from state prison in March 2015. So jurors paying attention could deduce the three men were on a prison bus.

Stroman also told jurors he first called West York Police about what he heard in March 2015 and was told someone would get back to him, but no one ever did. He reached out to police again a few weeks ago, he confirmed, after he was locked up on new theft charges.

In his own words: Although Johnson didn't testify on his own behalf, jurors heard his two taped interviews with lead West York Detective David Kahley, which happened in October 2014 and December 2014.

But it wasn't the prosecution who introduced those interviews, it was defense attorney Karen Comery.

During the interviews, Johnson repeatedly told Kahley he wasn't involved in the homicide, wasn't there when it happened and had no intention of telling Kahley anything he might have heard about Hylton's homicide.

Kahley told Johnson that police have video and cellphone evidence that put him at the scene of the homicide, prompting Johnson to say he doesn't believe that's true, because he wasn't there.

'Prove that': "I'm sorry, but you're going to have to prove that in court," he said. "I know better. ... You're lying to me, or (someone) is lying to you. I didn't do it. Period."

The jury was never shown any evidence that tied Johnson's cellphone to the murder scene, and the three men in the video to which Kahley was referring can't be identified by sight.

Johnson also told Kahley he knew the detective was "just pokin' and proddin', trying to get something," and called Kahley's accusations "outlandish."

"When the smoke clears, you're gonna see," Johnson told the detective. "And I hope you shake my hand when this is all over."

He repeatedly said he felt Kahley was trying to trick him into incriminating Rosario and Jackson; Kahley told him that wasn't true.

"We can go to trial tomorrow," Johnson said. "I don't have a dog in this fight."

Closing arguments: Comery, during her closing argument Wednesday afternoon, told jurors the taped police interviews are "pretty powerful evidence" of Johnson's innocence.

"You have your murderer, ladies and gentlemen," she said — and it's Rosario.

Rosario pleaded guilty last week to third-degree murder. As part of his negotiated plea agreement, the 31-year-old York man was sentenced to 15 to 40 years in state prison.

Comery reminded jurors there is no physical evidence tying Johnson to the scene, that Jackson's DNA was found on a water bottle near the scene, that the palm print of one of Rosario's associates was found on the victim's car, and that both Taylor, Johnson's ex-girlfriend, and Stroman, the jailhouse snitch, have motive to lie.

She urged jurors to recall Taylor's demeanor while testifying, adding Taylor kept looking down and wouldn't make eye contact with anyone in the courtroom.

"She reminded me of a small child caught in a lie," Comery said.

Witness 'scared': But Maisch, during his closing argument, said Taylor's lack of eye contact was because she was scared.

"And why shouldn't she be scared?" he asked. It was a reference to the woman's testimony that Johnson asked her if he needed to "help" her keep her mouth shut.

Maisch told jurors Taylor's testimony and Stroman's testimony jibed, even though they don't know each other.

Jurors deliberated about 70 minutes Wednesday before being dismissed for the day at 5:30 p.m. Deliberations will resume at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, presiding Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.