Curtis Jenkins III, the 20-year-old grandson of Camden City Council President Curtis Jenkins Sr., left home around 11 p.m. Sunday to make a food delivery. He never returned.
Hours later, a man called Jenkins’ father to say he’d kidnapped his son. He demanded 10 to 15 pounds of marijuana in exchange for Jenkins’ freedom, and sent a cell phone photo of him, bound and blindfolded.
Police found Jenkins’ body late Tuesday in an abandoned garage in the city’s Liberty Park neighborhood, about a block from the Mechanic Street house where Jenkins lived with his father. The body was wrapped in a sheet, with a plastic bag over the head, the hands and feet bound. Jenkins died of asphyxiation, authorities said, lured by a man who posed as a customer, then killed him.
Brandon Beverly, 32, of Deptford, was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in connection with the death. Authorities would not comment on a motive, but said Jenkins was abducted in “a calculated plot to entrap."
Jenkins and Beverly knew each other, said Bill Townsend, chief of detectives for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, but he declined to say how. According to documents filed by the Camden County Police Department, a relative of Jenkins’ recognized Beverly’s voice on the call made to the Jenkins home early Monday to demand the ransom.
Jenkins Sr., a councilman since 2005 who became Council president last year, was at the home his son and grandson had shared on Wednesday.
“I feel hurt. I feel pain. He was a good kid," Jenkins said. "He was a good role model for his younger brothers. I just can’t believe that he’s gone.”
Gov. Phil Murphy expressed condolences on Wednesday.
“I am appalled by the news of the senseless murder of Curtis Jenkins III, a young man who was continuing his family’s tradition of bringing positive change to Camden," the governor said. "I encourage anyone with information into this horrible crime to contact the Camden County Police Department. And I recommit our administration’s efforts to helping move the entire city of Camden forward.”
The victim’s father, Curtis Jr., said his son would have turned 21 on Sunday.
“He was a beautiful person, a very respectful and loving young man. Everybody loved my son,” he said. "This has upset almost everybody in this city.”
He said his son had just cooked chicken and shrimp parmesan when he got the call Sunday to deliver food to a house on Congress Road in the Fairview section. In addition to his job at the Camden County Clerk’s Office, Jenkins sold platter meals on Facebook. Jenkins and some friends drove together to the delivery address, the father said. After Jenkins got out and walked to the house, he never came back. The friends waited for him and eventually left.
Jenkins Jr. reported his son missing around 2 a.m. Almost immediately, police suspected foul play, said Assistant Chief Joseph Wysocki, and officers were investigating when Jenkins Jr.'s girlfriend answered the ransom call.
Soon afterward, he said, someone texted him a photo of his son bound and blindfolded. The man never called back.
Police traced the call to a phone that had been stolen hours earlier in a home invasion on the 300 block of Kaighns Avenue, according to police. Surveillance footage from the area led police to two men who were driving a van in the neighborhood Jenkins was lured to around the time of his kidnapping.
“There were a lot of witnesses that assisted, and as you can imagine, in this city there is a lot of surveillance that helps out,” said Townsend, of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office.
Using the license plate and other information, detectives tracked Beverly to a home in Woodbury. There, police found a witness who said Beverly had admitted that he and a woman had ordered food from Jenkins in a plot to kidnap him. When Jenkins arrived at the address on the 2700 block of North Congress Road, the witness said, Beverly and several other men forced him into a van against his will.
“Curtis Jenkins III was bound, blindfolded, and was driven throughout the streets of Camden," the witness told police.
The witness quoted Beverly as saying he shot Jenkins when his ransom demand was unmet, though investigators said Wednesday that Jenkins was not shot. The witness directed police to the garage on the 1100 block of Liberty, where they found Jenkins’ body.
Police took Beverly into custody late Monday in Woodbury on an unrelated warrant. They initially charged him with kidnapping and aggravated assault in connection with Jenkins’ disappearance. On Wednesday, he was charged with first-degree murder. If convicted, he would face a mandatory life sentence.
Beverly has had several encounters with law enforcement. In April 2017, he was driving near Newark Liberty International Airport when he was stopped by a police officer who seized more than 60 pills of Ecstasy, along with marijuana. Beverly had a suspended license and several outstanding warrants, and was charged with bail jumping.
In 2012, Beverly pleaded guilty to a weapons offense and was sentenced to five years in prison stemming from an arrest in Camden. He was arrested as part of an investigation into a series of robberies in which taxi drivers were summoned, then robbed. According to court documents, Beverly was charged after an officer observed him and a woman approach a taxi at the same time, and saw a handgun in Beverly’s pocket.
The garage where Jenkins’ body was found has peeling light blue paint, and neighbors said it was easy to slip in and out through the dilapidated doors. The area is popular among squatters, they said. On Wednesday morning, city officials boarded the garage up with large sheets of plywood.
By early evening, a memorial candle with a stuffed animal wrapped around the base was flickering on hot concrete outside the garage.
Neighbors said they were weary of the city’s violence, saying they drive home and hurry inside, only venturing outside to leave the block.
“I’m tired of these young men dying around here," said Tracy Garcia, a mother of three sons who lives nearby.