A New London Superior Court judge has found probable cause to charge a 19-year-old man with murder in a 2011 shooting.
Judge Susan B. Handy said the state demonstrated enough evidence that there was more than “mere suspicion” in the charges against Davion Smith, who is accused of involvement in the death of 25-year-old Jorge Rosa on the morning of Nov. 12. Smith is also charged with home invasion and first-degree burglary. Not guilty pleas were entered to all of the charges.
The state alleges that 21-year-old Evan Holmes, who faces the same charges, shot Rosa to death after breaking into his apartment. Holmes faces the same charges. Although the state is accusing Holmes of directly murdering Rosa, state law says a person is also legally responsible for a homicide if they are present as an accomplice or in an accessory manner.
State’s Attorney Paul Narducci said witnesses had identified Smith and that Smith evaded police for several months. He also said Holmes was involved in a fight with Rosa’s roommate shortly before the murder and knew where the man lived. Narducci said Smith aided Holmes in breaking into the apartment and committing murder.
Defense attorney Jeremiah Donovan argued that the state did not have any forensic evidence to implicate Rosa. He said Rosa’s girlfriend, who named Holmes and Smith, was not trustworthy enough to establish probable cause. Donovan also said Smith’s evasion from police did not imply guilt but rather demonstrated that he was afraid of being wrongfully arrested.
Rosa’s girlfriend testifies
Gabriela Gonzales, Rosa’s girlfriend and Holmes’ ex-girlfriend, said Holmes and Smith were “like brothers.” She said Smith was hanging out at Rosa’s apartment at 252 Montauk Ave. shortly before Holmes’ release from prison in another shooting incident when Smith mentioned that Holmes would be freed. Gonzales, 19, said she thought the statement may have been threatening because she and the other people visiting knew Holmes would be released.
“I just thought it was funny that he was saying that in front of me,” she said.
Gonzales said she saw Holmes going into a club with friends sometime after his release, but had no interaction with him between his release and the murder. She said that on the evening of Nov. 11, she and Rosa picked up a friend from Norwich and returned to the apartment to watch TV. She said Rosa and the friend smoked marijuana before Rosa fell asleep and someone else picked up the friend. Gonzales said she continued to watch TV before falling asleep.
Gonzales said she woke up early the next morning after hearing Holmes’ voice. She said Holmes and Smith were standing at the foot of the bed with guns and that Rosa had also woken up. She said Holmes fired several shots at Rosa and pointed the gun at her before leaving.
In a 911 call played for the court, Gonzales told a dispatcher that she did not know who shot Rosa. She also told Officer Melissa Schafranski that she did not know who the shooter was until another officer, Benjamin Burbank, told her about the severity of Rosa’s injuries. At that point, she identified Holmes and Smith and later confirmed them from a photo lineup.
“I was afraid,” Gonzales said when asked about her initial statements. “I thought they were going to come after me.”
Under questioning by Donovan, Gonzales denied that Rosa or the friend who visited were drug dealers. She said Rosa told her he had a job and that sometimes he would be away during the day and sometimes he would be home. Gonzales agreed that she had taken out a restraining order against Holmes following prior difficulties in their relationship but that Holmes did not attempt to contact her after his arrest.
Donovan also questioned why Gonzales did not name the shooters to Schafranski, saying the officer had been compassionate to Gonzales when she took out the restraining order. He also suggested that Gonzales was still fearful of retribution and was deliberately withholding the identity of the shooters while implicating Holmes and Smith.
“I know who she says did it,” said Donovan. “I think she’s trying to conceal the really dangerous people who actually did it.”
Gonzales denied the allegation. Donovan repeatedly pressed her on the possibility during his questioning until warned by Handy.
“It’s been asked and answered. Move on,” said Handy.
Testimony on Smith’s arrest
Holmes was arrested on the day of the murder at a Day’s Inn in Old Saybrook. Galante said Smith called the department and said he would visit to talk with officers, but never showed up. Smith remained at large until March 20, when he was arrested at the Winthrop Square Apartments.
Two members of the New London Police Department testified about this arrest. Detective Matthew Galante said officers set up a perimeter around an apartment in the complex after receiving a tip that Smith was there. He said a woman, later identified as Smith’s mother, denied he was there and appeared to be texting on a cell phone.
Officer Justin Clachrie said he saw a man who matched Smith’s physical description trying to leave the apartment through a window. He returned inside after an officer shouted for him to stop and was apprehended in the apartment. Clachrie said he did not see anyone else inside who looked similar to the person at the window.
Galante said he did not go to the apartment during the course of the investigation. He said the apartment was not leased by Smith’s mother but rather by a woman who was later identified as Smith’s aunt.
The probable cause hearing began on Sept. 6 and continued to Sept. 20 before concluding on Thursday. A total of nine witnesses—including police officers, investigators, and witnesses—took the stand. One witness testified that she saw Holmes and Smith at the Wild Style Motorcycle Club on South Water Street less than an hour before the murder and said that Holmes got into an altercation with Todd Silva, Rosa's roommate.
A medical examination of Rosa’s body determined that he died of multiple gunshot wounds and that his death was a homicide. Investigators found nine spent bullets in the apartment and another bullet in Rosa’s body. Rosa—who was shot in the chest, torso, and groin—died at the scene shortly after police arrived.
Smith’s case was continued to Nov. 15.