Jailed for a year, ‘All I kept thinking about was my family’
A prosecutor says Ledarius Samuel was involved in robbery that left one man dead and his son shot.
Samuel’s defense attorney said her client was running errands during the shooting and that she has video that proves it.
Samuel, 19, of Durham is charged in connection with fatal Jan. 12, 2017, shooting on the 2500 block of South Roxboro Street. Police found Felipe Aleman Perez, 42, of Durham, dead. His son, Jesus Aguirre, then 18, was also shot.
Perez was struggling with a man who was trying to steal his wife’s purse when he was shot, according to the medical examiner’s report.
In the last two weeks of January, a Durham judge let five men accused of murder out of jail.
Samuel is one of the men released after bond hearings before before Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, who said the cases were weak. An unsecured bond requires a signature promising to pay an amount of money if the defendant fails to return to court.
The bond hearings highlight the stakes as judges balance defendants’ presumption of innocence with the risks that the suspects they release will commit a violent crime or flee.
The hearings also reveal challenges prosecutors face when witness testimony is key evidence in fatal street crimes, as well as concerns defense attorneys have about prosecutors holding onto weak cases.
Charges: Murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and four counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Days in jail: 376 days in jail.
Convictions: Currently on probation for felony conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
What they said at the bond hearing: On Jan. 12, 2017, Jesus Aguirre was walking home at the Cornwallis Road public housing complex, where he lived. He saw two people getting robbed but continued to his apartment, Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried said.
Aguirre’s parents arrived home, and two men tried to rob them in the parking lot. One man, whom Aguirre later identified as Samuel, tried to rob his mother but ran off. The other man fatally shot his father and shot Aguirre in the leg, according to statements in court.
“The fact that the person who attempted to rob the wife then runs away and the shooting occurs after he has run away” still makes that person responsible if the men were working together, Dornfried said.
Defense Attorney Allyn Sharp says the two people Aguirre saw being robbed just before the shooting were unable to identify the person [robbing them], and they both described him as a “short black male.”
“My client is 5 foot 11,” Sharp said.
Aguirre told police there were three black males, one with a gun and two without, involved in the robberies, Sharp said. They arrived together and fled on foot.
Agguire could not identify the shooter but recognized one of the other two men, Sharp said. That man has not been charged in the case since there is no evidence that he participated in the robbery, Dornfried said.
Five days after the shooting, Aguirre said he went onto the Facebook page of the man he recognized and searched through his Facebook friends.
“By doing his own Facebook investigation, he was now able to identify Mr. Samuel as being suspect number two,” Sharp said.
During a photo lineup Aguirre identified a man as the shooter who was a filler in the lineup and was in custody at the time of shooting, Sharp said. Perez’s daughter also said the person who robbed her mother was a short black male.
Meanwhile, surveillance footage shows Samuel picking up his mother at Sam’s Club before the shooting, and entering Walmart after the shooting, Sharp said. Samuel needed non-slip shoes to start a new job at McDonald’s the next morning, Sharp said.
“There is significant evidence of an alibi in this case,” Sharp said.
Samuel’s mother clocks out at the Sam’s Club 7:48 p.m., Sharp said. They drive off at 7:50 p.m. The shooting was reported at 7:57 p.m. Samuel and his mom then went home to drop some stuff off and then go to Walmart at 8:19 p.m., Sharp said. Samuel is wearing the same pants as he is in the Sam’s video.
“I think when you take the Walmart video alongside the [Sam’s] video, it is clear this is the same individual because of the clothing matching,” Sharp said.
Dornfried said the Sam’s Club video isn’t very clear.
“You can make out probably the race; other than that, there is nothing else you can make out,” Dornfried said.
What the judge said: “You both agree there is no physical evidence here. You have cross racial ID, which anecdotally, is the worst kind of identification you can have,” Hudson said.
Dornfried asked that Samuel “at the very least,” be put on electronic house arrest. Sharp said such requirements aren’t warranted given the the evidence of actual innocence.
“I think, Mr. Dornfried, this is going to be a jury issue as you very well know,” Hudson said. “I think the jury might have a harder time than maybe what you think they would.”
How the bond changed: From $750,000 secured to $750,0000 unsecured. Conditions: No contact with witnesses, report to probation officer and no weapons possession.