They loved to talk.
In fact, the four alleged co-conspirators and a "person of interest" talked nearly 300 times shortly before, during and after an attempted burglary, attempted robbery and double murder June 27 at the Piazza at Schmidts retail/apartment complex in Northern Liberties.
The most talkative cell-phone user was Will Hooks Jr., 40, the alleged mastermind charged with two counts of murder under the name Keith Epps, who did nearly all of the calling, according to an unsigned probable-cause affidavit made public yesterday.
Hooks' repeated phone calls and presence inside the apartment building with two co-defendants "are clear indicators that [Hooks] participated and orchestrated the entire sequence of events that ultimately led to this double murder," said the affidavit.
Yesterday, Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner denied a motion for Hooks to be released from Curran Fromhold Correctional Center after reading the affidavit and other materials provided by Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Selber.
Lerner ruled that Hooks would remain in custody until a Sept. 23 preliminary hearing for all co-defendants.
"You know what these phone calls are? Hieroglyphics without an interpreter, unless they have subscriber information," said Hooks' attorney Chris Warren. "What other stuff are they going to make a deal with?"
Warren was referring to co-defendants who could seek a plea agreement for lesser penalties.
"This is the most compelling phone evidence we've ever had," Homicide Lt. Philip Riehl said. But it won't be presented at the preliminary hearing.
The video evidence, estimated at 100 DVDs of surveillance tapes showing co-defendants inside the apartment building, and the cell-phone records "reveal a broad conspiracy" between 9 p.m. June 26 and 5:30 p.m. June 27, according to the affidavit.
Riehl said that he expected that at least 11 suspects would be arrested. Seven already are in custody.
According to the affidavit, Hooks phoned:
* 36 times to co-defendant Donnell Murchison, 33, who allegedly fired the fatal shots killing Rian Thal, 34, reportedly a party planner-turned-drug dealer, and Timothy Gilmore, 41, who is said to have been a Detroit firefighter-turned-drug supplier, outside Thal's seventh-floor apartment. Inside were found $111,000 and four kilos of cocaine.
* 64 times to co-defendant Robert Keith, who with Hooks allegedly attempted to break into a sixth-floor apartment which they believed to be Thal's at about 4 a.m. - 13 1/2 hours before the murders.
* 40 times to co-defendant Katoya Jones, 25, a tenant-friend of Hooks who opened the lobby door of the Navona Apartments to gunmen and lookouts within an hour of the murders. Jones' cell-phone records show 66 calls between her and Hooks.