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Aspiring boxer held on $2 million bail in shooting death of Marine

Darrell Crone pleaded not guilty yesterday in the shooting death of Timothy Loper Jr.

THE HANDCUFFS looked puny on Darrell Crone's wrists and he shook his head in disbelief in a Camden courtroom yesterday, thinking the shackles didn't belong there in the first place.

There were more than a dozen sheriff's deputies surrounding the muscle-bound aspiring boxer, but the prosecution painted a picture of a man who preferred guns, not his fists or physical prowess, to settle problems. Crone, 31, is accused of shooting and killing Timothy Loper Jr., a married U.S. Marine who was trying to break up a fight outside a Camden bar Sunday morning.

Loper, 27, survived a tour of duty in Afghanistan and died of a gunshot wound to the back after attending a friend's birthday party at 20 Horse Tavern.

"In my book, that's a coward," said the victim's father, Timothy Loper Sr.

Surveillance video from outside the bar shows a man witnesses identified as Crone brandishing and firing a handgun and then getting into a large SUV, Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah said. Crone owns a 2000 Chevrolet Suburban and admits he was at the bar, said his attorney, Scott R. Cohen, but he entered a plea of not guilty.

"He says that's not him," Cohen said of the man in the video.

Crone served nearly nine years for an armed robbery he committed as a juvenile, and was in prison on an additional weapons charge in 2010 while Loper was in Afghanistan.

"He's been an adult for 13 years and spent 11 of them in prison," Shah told Camden County Superior Court Judge Edward McBride.

Crone was ordered held on $2 million bail.

Dozens of Loper's family members, including his widow, attended the hearing and sobbed in the hallways outside when it ended. Loper, the father of a 6-year-old daughter, will be laid to rest today in Camden.