Man who murdered York semi-pro football player pleads guilty

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

A man who murdered a semi-pro football player inside the victim's York City home in 2017 has been sentenced to prison.

Dante Levon Brown, 20, admitted to fatally shooting 31-year-old Julio Ferrer as he pleaded guilty to third-degree murder Monday, March 11, in York County Court.

Brown was sentenced to eight to 16 years in state prison and was ordered to pay nearly $12,000 in restitution to his victim's father, according to chief deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner. 

Ferrer was found dead in his 27 N. West St. apartment shortly before 4 a.m. Dec. 16, 2017, according to York City Police, who said he suffered a gunshot wound to the chest.

Brown lived in the same block at the time of Ferrer's slaying, according to court documents.

In court Monday, Brown told presiding Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock that he went to Ferrer's home to sell him a gun and that the gun accidentally fired, according to defense attorney Tom Kelley.

"He apologized to the victim's father in court," Kelley said. "I believe his apology was sincere."

Dante Brown

"We're not in any position to disprove what Dante Brown said, but that is not what we believe led to the shooting," Bortner told The York Dispatch. "That's never been the theory."

Robbery loot: York City Police have said detectives believe Ferrer and Brown together robbed Ferrer's cousin of $2,500 cash. The cousin did not report the robbery at the time, police said.

Police said Brown was upset because he and Ferrer couldn't agree on how to split up the robbery proceeds.

After the slaying, about $2,000 of Ferrer's cash was missing from his home, according to police.

Ferrer's father, Bernard Smallwood, spoke in court Monday.

"He was very emotional and let Dante Brown know how much losing his son has hurt him and his family," Bortner told The York Dispatch.

Bortner said Ferrer's family understood the reasons prosecutors entered into the negotiated plea agreement to third-degree murder with Brown.

"The case relied completely on the testimony of an individual to whom Dante Brown had confessed," Bortner said, adding that prosecutors had concerns about how that witness would be perceived by a jury.

Life owed: In handing down the agreed-upon sentence, Judge Trebilcock told Brown, "You owe this community a life," and the judge suggested Brown could pay back that debt by doing good deeds, according to Kelley.

Kelley, who was a York County judge before stepping down to become a defense attorney, said he thinks — and hopes — Brown truly heard the judge's words.

"It's a compelling statement," Kelley said. "You hope people listen to you, because you see this day in and day out, and it has a marked effect on you as a judge. And you hope you can relay that — especially to the young men who get caught up in the street life."

Kelley described his client as "a nice kid, believe it or not."

"He made a mistake and hopefully he learns from it," the attorney said.

Semi-pro player: Ferrer was a semi-professional football player for the York Silver Bullets, the York Generals, the Central Penn Chargers and the Central Penn Piranha, according to online reports.

Julio Ferrer

He played defensive tackle for the Silver Bullets and was on that team for six years, co-owner Chris Umbarger has said.

Jessica Wells, a friend of Ferrer's, has told The York Dispatch that Ferrer was a kind person and a good friend who could be trusted.

"He was always willing to help out his fellow teammates or friends," she said. "He bent over backward for the people he cared about."

Football was Ferrer's passion in life, according to Wells. He'd show up for every practice — often early and always ready to work.

"He was that guy on your team you could depend on, and he was an excellent football player," Wells said.

Julio Ferrer, 31, was killed in the early morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 16. He was a member of the semi-professional York football team the York Silver Bullets.

Stabbed classmate: In October 2014, when he was 16 years old, Brown was arrested by York City Police for allegedly stabbing a 15-year-old classmate at Goodridge Academy.

The privately run academy is for York City students with severe disciplinary issues, school officials have said.

The classmate escaped life-threatening injury, and Brown was charged as an adult with aggravated assault and related offenses.

The classmate suffered stab wounds to the back and arm, which Brown was accused of inflicting as the two sat next to each other in class, police said at the time.

Brown's 2014 criminal charges were moved to juvenile court in February 2015 for resolution, prosecutors said at the time.

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