Levittown musician Danny DeGennaro was targeted for robbery in 2011 when the crime went awry and he was gunned down by a shotgun blast, a Bucks County prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.
In his opening statement in the murder trial of Jermaine Jackson, Assistant District Attorney Matt Weintraub said Jackson, 20, of Trenton, was the mastermind of the plot. He is not accused of shooting DeGennaro, but could be found guilty of murder depending on his role in the events that led to DeGennaro's death.
DeGennaro, who toured the country with musicians such as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band, was "involved in the drug culture," Weintraub said, and was thus targeted by Jackson and his coconspirators as someone who would have money or drugs in his home.
Defense attorney Craig Penglase said Jackson, whom he described as a drug dealer, had gone to the house to complete a drug transaction with DeGennaro and left before the coconspirators killed him. Jackson did not want DeGennaro shot, Penglase said, and had not ordered a robbery.
Jackson is the only one of the five alleged conspirators on trial this week. The two alleged shooters, Breon Powell, 21, and Kazair Gist, 19, are to be tried separately. The two alleged getaway drivers, Danasia Bakr, 19, of Falls Township, and Tatyana Henderson, 19, of Bensalem, are also awaiting trial, but have cooperated with authorities and are expected to testify in the case against Jackson.
Tuesday's testimony came from witnesses including DeGennaro's daughter, Gia; his neighbor Nicholas Wilson; several Bristol Township police officers who responded to the scene; and his roommate, Jim Meszaros, who was in the house when DeGennaro was shot.
Meszaros said he and DeGennaro had shared a steak dinner upstairs around 10 p.m., which they washed down with about a half-bottle of rum. Meszaros, who said he was "pretty lit" that night, said the two drank and smoked marijuana together regularly.
Meszaros then went downstairs to use the bathroom, he said, and when he turned the corner to come back upstairs, he saw DeGennaro at the top of the steps with blood pouring out of his chest.
"His eyes went up in his head, and he fell backwards," Meszaros recalled.
Meszaros said he did not remember hearing the gunshot and did not see who shot DeGennaro. DeGennaro tumbled down the stairs, Meszaros said, and Meszaros ran across the street to Wilson's house for help.
Wilson came over and called 911, pushing several white T-shirts into the hole in DeGennaro's chest to try to stop the bleeding. DeGennaro was pronounced dead at St. Mary Medical Center that night.
Jackson's whereabouts during the incident and his role in the killing were hardly addressed Tuesday after opening statements.
Bakr and Henderson are expected to be key witnesses in the prosecution's case, according to Weintraub's opening address. He also said that the two had participated in wiretapped phone conversations with Jackson.
Penglase told the jurors they would have to assess Bakr and Henderson's trustworthiness, since they may view cooperation as their only way to freedom and therefore might be willing to lie.
The case resumes at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in front of Judge Rea B. Boylan at Bucks County Court.