Prosecutor: Murder suspect an illegal alien
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
By CAROL COMEGNO
A man accused of fatally shooting a Burlington City man and wounding his former girlfriend over the weekend is an illegal alien and a street gang member, a prosecutor told a judge Tuesday.
The suspect, Jesus Avila, 22, of Kinsley Road in Pemberton Township, remained in the Burlington County Jail Tuesday after a Superior Court judge reaffirmed his $1 million bail.
Deputy first assistant county prosecutor James Ronca said Avila was not only an undocumented alien from Mexico but was out on bail on a minor charge when the shootings occurred Saturday.
Avila is charged with killing Gilbert Parra, 19, of Burlington City and wounding a 17-year-old girl, identified as Avila's former girlfriend, in the ankle.
Ronca said the shootings followed an argument over the girl that began on the telephone and continued after Avila drove to the house on the 400 block of Washington Street with three friends. The prosecutor said Parra was found lying outside the house while the girl was inside the home when she was shot.
"Jail personnel said they saw tattoos identifying him (Avila) as a member of a street gang, but I want to emphasize this murder was not gang-related," Ronca told Superior Court Judge Patricia LeBon.
Ronca did not identify the gang.
He also said a number of eyewitnesses who knew the defendant can place him at the scene of the crime, adding to other evidence in what the prosecutor considers a strong case against him.
Speaking through a court interpreter, Avila asked for a court-appointed lawyer to represent him but made no other comment and kept his head down during his court appearance via closed circuit television from the jail. He is charged with murder, aggravated assault and illegal possession of a firearm.
Parra's family members began to cry during the proceeding and were cautioned by a sheriff's officer not to disrupt the court proceedings. They made no comment afterward.
Ronca said Avila was charged previously with a creating a false public alarm and was free on $5,000 bail that had been set July 11 by Superior Court Judge James Morley. However, Ronca had no details of the earlier arrest.
LeBon granted Ronca's request to keep bail high after he said Avila was a flight risk mainly because of his illegal status in the U.S. and the earlier arrest.
Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or firstname.lastname@example.org