The accused mastermind of the kidnapping and murder of the grandson of Camden City Council President Curtis Jenkins Sr. was ordered Thursday to remain in jail until trial for what prosecutors said was “a horrific and senseless crime.”
Brandon Beverly, 32, of Woodbury, was charged with murder, kidnapping, and related offenses in the death of Curtis Jenkins III. Authorities say Beverly and others lured Jenkins, 20, to a location in Camden’s Fairview neighborhood, where he was abducted, on June 30.
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Jenkins’ relatives and friends packed the Camden courtroom of Superior Court Judge Edward McBride for Beverly’s detention hearing. Emotions and tensions ran high, and the judge cautioned them to refrain from outbursts, although there were tears and sniffles. Some wore T-shirts that read “#LongLiveCurt” and buttons in his memory .
Later, outside the courthouse, Jenkins Sr. said he wanted to see justice for his grandson and vowed to attend all future hearings. The parents of his grandson, known as “Li’l Curt,” also attended the hearing.
“We want my grandson to receive the justice he deserves,” Jenkins Sr. said, calling for peace in Camden. “I’m going to let the system work, and hopefully at the end of the day, justice will prevail.”
Jenkins’ kidnappers demanded a ransom of 10 to 15 pounds of marijuana from his father, Curtis Jr., in exchange for his safe return, authorities said. When the demand was not met, they sent a photograph of Jenkins, bound and blindfolded, to his father by text, authorities said. He was found dead a day later, five days before his 21st birthday. Authorities said he was asphyxiated.
In court Thursday, McBride also ordered a second man, who authorities say was involved in a robbery linked to the murder, held pending trial. Jalen Carr, 22, of Sicklerville, is charged with breaking into a home on Kaighns Avenue in Camden. Police traced the ransom call to a cell phone that had been stolen hours earlier in the home invasion.
Prosecutors told the judge that Beverly had orchestrated the kidnapping and murder in what has been described as “a calculated plot to entrap.” Jenkins, who operated a food delivery business, was lured by a call to deliver a platter on the night he disappeared. He never returned.
”He was the mastermind behind these crimes,” said Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Kevin Moran. Beverly used the victim’s business as a guise, and “when it didn’t go right, he killed him,” he said.
Among those in court was South Jersey political power broker George E. Norcross III, who said he came to support the council president, a longtime friend in the labor movement. He hugged family members and sat in a back row, but declined comment. Norcross’ late father was president of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council of Camden and Gloucester Counties. Jenkins Sr. is the business agent for Laborers Local 222 in Camden.
Beverly, wearing a dark blue prison jumpsuit and white sneakers, was shackled as he was led into the courtroom. He whispered occasionally to his public defender, and showed little emotion as Moran outlined the evidence against him and the chronology of events surrounding the abduction. Sheriff’s officers lined both sides of the courtroom.
The prosecutor said a witness had told authorities Beverly tearfully confessed to the crime and told the witness: “Things got messed up.” The witness, Moran said, told law enforcement officials where to find Jenkins’ body in a garage on Liberty Street, a block from the home where he lived with his father.
The witness told investigators Beverly and several other men forced Jenkins into a van against his will, authorities said. They drove around the streets of Camden with Jenkins held captive, the witness said.
Authorities have said Jenkins and Beverly knew each other, but have declined to say how. According to court documents, a relative of Jenkins’ recognized Beverly’s voice on the ransom call.
Beverly was charged July 3 with Jenkins’ death. Authorities arrested Carr two days later after a source identified him from surveillance video from the area near the home invasion. He was charged with two counts of armed robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and unlawful possession of weapon.
In asking that Beverly be detained, Moran told the judge Beverly was a flight risk with an extensive record that began when he was a juvenile. He has convictions on seven felony charges, mostly drug cases, as well as receiving stolen property, weapons offenses, and obstruction.
Public defender Margaret Butler acknowledged Beverly’s criminal history, but said none of the convictions involved violence and urged the judge to order his release pending trial. She said Beverly has close ties to the community, including two children, ages 7 and 10.
The judge found that there was “clear and convincing evidence” to hold Beverly and Carr, who appeared at a separate detention hearing. Carr’s attorney, David M. Simon, said Carr has no prior convictions and contended that he did not pose a flight risk. Carr, one of 12 siblings, has two children and is expecting a third, he said.
Simon also noted that Carr has not been charged in connection with Jenkins’ death. “There’s nothing linking my client to that,” he said. Authorities have said the investigation is ongoing.
Before Carr was led away from the courtroom, he yelled to his family, “Love y’all.” They yelled back, “Love you.”
A viewing for Curtis Jenkins III will be Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m., followed by funeral services, at New Life Ministries, 1721 Haddon Ave., Camden. Interment will be at Harleigh Cemetery, Camden.
His grandfather said he was a positive young man who was not “involved in the streets.”