Chanceford Twp. homicide victim's brother implicates 3 defendants
The 17-year-old brother of Chanceford Township homicide victim Stefen Simmons didn't break down or lose his composure as defense attorneys deluged him with questions in court last week.
Dressed in a black suit, Gavin Simmons calmly — and repeatedly — recounted in detail the night he witnessed his older brother gunned down during a robbery.
The courtroom was silent as Gavin testified that after the shooting, he lay down on the ground next to his dying brother, who wasn't responding at all. He said he heard blood gurgling in his brother's lungs.
Gavin said he's unsure how long he simply lay next to his brother but said it was the barking of a neighbor dog that roused him. He went to the neighbor's front door and asked them to call 911.
In large part because of Gavin's testimony, 18-year-old Da'Zanie Gibson, of Springfield Township; her 25-year-old brother Montrice Gibson, of York City; and Da'Zanie's apparent boyfriend, 18-year-old Tysheem Santiago, who has no fixed address, are now facing trial in York County Court.
Locked up: Da'Zanie Gibson — the victim's ex-girlfriend — is charged as an adult, although the homicide happened when she was 17. She, Montrice Gibson and Santiago remain in York County Prison without bail.
All three are charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery. Santiago also is charged with theft and receiving stolen property.
At the close of the trio's preliminary hearing Wednesday, Feb. 27, District Judge John H. Fishel ruled enough evidence exists for the defendants to stand trial in York County Court. He then set their formal court arraignments for April 5.
Stefen Simmons, 20, died of a gunshot wound to the chest about 11:40 p.m. Jan. 6 after being shot during a robbery in the first block of Oriole Circle in Chanceford Township, state police have said.
Gavin said his brother had just been released from York County Prison and wanted to celebrate his freedom by hanging out with friends and partying but hadn't had any takers.
Looking to hang out: So Simmons posted photos of cash and jewelry on social media sites and asked people to reach out to him, his little brother testified.
It was the Gibsons who responded, according to Gavin, who said his brother had previously dated Da'Zanie Gibson and was friends with Montrice Gibson.
The Gibson siblings, along with their then-18-year-old brother, Chris Gibson, drove down to Chanceford Township and picked up both Simmons and Gavin, he said.
Under questioning by senior deputy prosecutor Lewis Reagan, Gavin said the car that Da'Zanie Gibson was driving that night initially passed them but turned around and came back for them.
After the car returned, it was missing one occupant who'd been in the front passenger seat, Gavin testified.
The Simmons brothers got in, and the group drove a short distance, at which point Da'Zanie Gibson stopped the car and rolled down the passenger-side windows, he said. She shut off the car at her brother's direction, Gavin said.
That's when a masked gunman later identified as Santiago walked up to the car and said to Simmons, "Give me all your f—in' money," Gavin testified.
"He reached into the vehicle for my brother," he said. "(Santiago) pulled him out of the car and ... lays him on the ground."
Gavin said Santiago fired a handgun three times during that interaction and that his brother wasn't moving.
Santiago went through Simmons' pockets and stole his wallet, police have said.
'Like a Hollywood actor': During the robbery, Montrice Gibson was acting surprised, "like a Hollywood actor," Gavin testified.
Da'Zanie Gibson, still in the driver's seat of the car, then made a statement, according to Gavin: "If you're not my blood brother, get out of the vehicle."
Gavin said he got out of the car as Santiago got into the front passenger seat and the car took off.
State Trooper Tyler Stepanchick, lead investigator in the case, said the moments of the robbery were so chaotic that Gavin left his phone behind in the car.
Stepanchick was the only other witness called during the hearing.
He said his investigation showed that the car used that night belonged to Chris Gibson, but that Chris was unaware Simmons was going to be robbed that night. The car was found the next day at Dallastown Area High School, Stepanchick said, because Chris Gibson was a student there. He has not been charged.
Finger-pointing: Once in custody, Da'Zanie Gibson, Montrice Gibson and Santiago either confessed or turned on each other, according to the trooper's testimony.
Da'Zanie Gibson told police Santiago fatally shot Simmons and stole his wallet, according to Stepanchick, who said she led troopers to where the wallet had been discarded.
Montrice Gibson, who maintains his innocence, told police he overheard Santiago asking Da'Zanie what she wanted him to do, "and she responded by saying, 'Beat him up and take what he's got,'" Stepanchick testified.
He also said his investigation showed Da'Zanie Gibson and Santiago had been seen kissing and cuddling, as if they were romantically involved. That was before the homicide.
A witness told police Da'Zanie Gibson confessed to a friend that she set up the robbery, but that "she didn't know it was going to go that far," the trooper said.
Stepanchick said Santiago confessed to shooting Simmons while the two men were struggling.
Alleged killer shot himself: Santiago suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his upper left shoulder during the struggle, according to Stepanchick.
The jacket, sweatshirt and T-shirt Santiago wore that night each had a bullet hole in the upper left shoulder area, the trooper testified.
"Tysheem told me he threw the gun out the (car) window" as they headed back to York City after the homicide, Stepanchick said, adding the handgun has not been found.
Attorney Farley Holt said his client, Montrice Gibson, believes "his evil sister and her friend (Santiago) ... concocted this whole scheme behind his back."
"He was as shocked as the victims when it all went down," Holt told The York Dispatch.
Attorney Suzanne Smith said her client, Santiago, "feels very bad that Mr. Simmons died."
"As Mr. Santiago told the officer, he never anticipated or intended for anything like this to happen," she said.
Da'Zanie Gibson's attorney, Korey Leslie, said he's "looking forward to receiving and reviewing all the evidence that's been presented, to see what participants had to say and where their statements align and where they differ from each other."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.