When detectives entered the Woodbury apartment of Brandon Beverly last July 1, they were not looking for a gun but for Curtis Jenkins III, 20, grandson of Council President Curtis Jenkins Sr., who had gone missing the day before, defense attorney Timothy Farrow said during the hearing in Superior Court in Camden.
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While the gun recovered during the search was not used to kill Jenkins, who died of asphyxiation, authorities said, it was used in an armed robbery earlier that day. A cell phone stolen from the robbery victim was later used to call Jenkins’ family to demand a ransom of 10 to 15 pounds of marijuana, and to text them a photograph of Jenkins bound and blindfolded, authorities contend.
Farrow argued that if the gun was in plain sight, it could be used as evidence, but if the detective who found the weapon on the top level of a bunk bed did so after lifting a sheet, that would make the search illegal.
“If you’re looking for a body and you pull back something that you don’t need to pull back to locate a body, then you’re going beyond your body search, and that would no longer be a legal plain view search,” said Farrow, who believes the gun was not visible to the detective.
Whether the gun was in plain view or under a sheet was not cleared up during the hearing because the Camden County Police detective who found the weapon, Baruch Zepeda, is on military leave and was not in court to testify.
Stephen Bezich, a detective with the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, could not say during his testimony if the gun was in plain sight, because he was in an adjacent room when Zepeda shouted, “Gun.” He said it took him two seconds to get to the room where the gun was found and he saw it in plain view on top of the sheet.
Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Spittal contended that the search was legal.
Judge Edward McBride scheduled a hearing in the case for July 27, but said he may issue a written decision before then.
Beverly, 33, the accused mastermind of the kidnap scheme, and Jalen Carr, 22, of Sicklerville, are both charged with murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery in the death of Jenkins.
Jenkins’ body was found on the night of July 2, 2019, in an abandoned garage on the 1100 block of Liberty Street in Camden, a block from the home where he lived with his father. His body was wrapped in a sheet, his hands and feet were bound, and a plastic bag covered his head.
Authorities have said Beverly and several other men lured Jenkins, who operated a food-delivery business, to take a platter of food to a house on Congress Road in Camden’s Fairview section, where he was abducted about 11 p.m. June 30. Jenkins was forced into Beverly’s blue Chevrolet Uplander van and driven around Camden, authorities said.