Long prison sentences for two Yorkers in gang murder

Liz Evans Scolforo
  • Elvin Mateo Jr. got life in prison and co-defendant Durell Cotton Jr. got 65 years to life in prison.
  • They gunned down Jordan Breeland in a gang-war "ambush," chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday said.
  • Cotton is expected to stand trial in November for the slayings of brothers Angel Berrios and Abdiel Vazquez-Soto.

Convicted murderer Elvin Mateo Jr. didn't smirk during the entirety of his sentencing hearing Monday, as he did throughout his preliminary hearing for the gang murder of Jordan Breeland.

He did smile quite a bit, though, even after being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Oct. 15, 2013, shooting death.

After learning his punishment, Mateo grinned in defiance at Breeland's loved ones, then smiled at his own.

"I'll be back," he vowed.

York City police officers search for evidence after Jordan Breeland, 21, was shot and killed Oct. 15, 2013.

"You ain't coming back," one of Breeland's family members replied in disgust. Several others chimed in with similar sentiments.

Barring a successful appeal, the 22-year-old Mateo will spend the rest of his life in state prison.

He and co-defendant Durell Cotton Jr. — both of York City and both involved in the gang lifestyle — have showed "absolutely zero" guilt, chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday said after the hearing.

"They have never, at any point, shown any remorse," Sunday said, adding Mateo bragged about the murder in the days afterward.

Elvin Mateo Jr.

'Mission to kill': Sunday said Breeland was ambushed and that the defendants were on "a mission to kill." Cotton drove while Mateo fired; a second man was injured as about 20 bullets flew, Sunday said.

Unlike Mateo, Cotton was a juvenile when they killed Breeland. Because of that, he cannot receive an automatic life sentence, as adults do.

Instead, presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook sentenced Cotton, 20, to 65 years to life in state prison.

The murderers declined to make statements in court before sentencing.

Breeland's mother, Victoria Greer, and his girlfriend, Kenyetta Redman, both spoke in court about the pain of losing a loved one. Redman said she gave birth to Breeland's son, named Jordan Breeland Jr., after the slaying.

"My son doesn't even have a picture of his daddy and him together," Redman said. "My son was born into this world with a single parent. ... No matter how hard I try to fill the void, it is something I cannot do."

Redman said she spent "countless nights" unable to sleep or eat after the slaying.

Gang beef: An ongoing "beef" between York City's Southside and Parkway gangs in the fall of 2013 exploded into a war of back-and-forth drive-by shootings, according to trial testimony.

Witness in York gang homicide trial: 'Someone had to die'

Breeland, 21, a member of the Parkway gang, was fatally shot in the chest.

In May, a jury found Cotton and Mateo guilty of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Breeland was in a car with Davon "YB" Brown when the hail of bullets hit them, and Brown suffered gunshot wounds to his hands, York City Police have said.

During trial, prosecution witness Raymond Bruno-Carrasquillo was asked to describe a typical day for him, Mateo and Cotton, all of whom lived in the city's south side and hung out on Liberty Court:

"Wake up, go on Liberty Court and sell drugs, and the same thing, over and over," he testified. "Every day."

Bruno-Carrasquillo testified that in the days before Breeland's murder, Mateo and Cotton took a gun from Parkway associate Shyheim McDowell. He told jurors that caused several Parkway members — including Brown, allegedly — to retaliate by shooting up vehicles and a home on Liberty Court.

Durell Cotton Jr.

"It was a beef from there on," Bruno-Carrasquillo told jurors. "War."

'Someone had to die': Mateo and others drove around the Parkway Homes neighborhood looking to shoot anybody associated with the gang, according to Bruno-Carrasquillo, who said that's known as "lurking."

Mateo confessed that while lurking, he spotted McDowell and shot him, according to Bruno-Carrasquillo. But that didn't end the beef.

"(Mateo) told me that that wasn't enough, and someone had to die," the witness testified.

The next day, Bruno-Carrasquillo learned Breeland had been killed, he said.

Pair guilty of first-degree murder in York City shooting

According to Bruno-Carrasquillo, Mateo said he and Cotton were out "lurking" when they ran across Brown and Breeland in a gold SUV, and Mateo fired into the car.

"He said he shot the driver and he shot the passenger," the witness said.

Order to kill: Mateo repeatedly checked online media reports about Breeland's homicide and "basically kept bragging about the situation," Bruno-Carrasquillo said, adding he was told by Cotton that Cotton's role in the drive-by shooting was to drive the car.

The witness also told jurors that Mateo had given an "on-sight order" for Parkway gang members, meaning "anybody that you see at any time, you gotta go at them," meaning shoot them on sight.

He said the Liberty Court group collected "multiple" guns for "everybody" to use if they needed one.

Bruno-Carrasquillo said he has known Mateo and Cotton for most of his life and hung out with them daily. He calls Cotton "Rel" and calls Mateo "Bebo," and confirmed he was testifying against them in exchange for leniency on his own multiple criminal cases.

Shot before: Breeland had previously survived a gang-related shooting. He was 18 years old when he was shot in the stomach Sept. 13, 2011, outside the York Fair.

It was Student Day at the fair, and several members of the rival groups had gone there, police said at the time. In the days before that shooting, York City Police had arrested Breeland and charged him with dealing cocaine.

The Parkway and Southside gangs have clashed violently for decades, according to officials, including a 2009 drive-by shooting in which 9-year-old Ciara "CeCe" Savage, of Lancaster, was fatally shot by a stray bullet while playing on a sidewalk in Southside territory.

Second murder case: Cotton also is charged in a double homicide that happened in York City. That case is expected to go to trial in November, according to Sunday.

Cotton is charged with first-degree murder for the June 12, 2015, shooting deaths of brothers Angel Berrios, 21, and Abdiel "Tito" Vazquez-Soto, 19.

Bruno-Carrasquillo has previously testified that he was driving around with Cotton in the passenger seat when they pulled up to a vehicle carrying the brothers.

He maintains Cotton opened the car door and fired repeatedly at the brothers about 10:15 p.m. at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Juniper Street.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.