The lead detective in the trial of a Bradenton teen charged in the 2015 fatal shooting of another teen testified on Tuesday afternoon as the state began presenting its case.
Jamari Lamon Murray-Barnes, 19, is charged with second-degree murder with a firearm in the death of Justin Fabien, 16. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
Bradenton police found Justin laying on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds to his head and neck when they were called to a report of a shooting in the 1200 block of 21st Street East early on the morning of Aug. 10, 2015. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Both teens, who had previously been enemies, had allegedly been passengers in the same car on the night of the shooting.
Never miss a local story.
Lead homicide Detective James Curulla confirmed for the jury that a BOLO (be on the look for alert) had been issued based on the description from a witness in the neighborhood. When the vehicle was spotted, deputies pulled the driver over and he was taken to the Bradenton Police Department, where Curulla questioned him.
The driver had told detectives that when he approached the 1200 block of 21st Street East, Justin got out and then so did Murray-Barnes, known to him as “Appo.” He stepped behind Justin and shot him in the head and neck.
The driver later told Curulla that Murray-Barnes had asked him for a ride to a home near Cortez Road and 75th Street West in Bradenton after the shooting. According to the affidavit for a juvenile pick-up order, the driver had been shocked by the shooting and had asked Murray-Barnes why he shot Justin, and Murray-Barnes told him that it was because Justin pistol-whipped and robbed him weeks earlier.
The murder weapon was never found, Curulla testified Tuesday afternoon. Curulla testified that the driver was very emotional as he tried to take him and another homicide detective to where he said Murray-Barnes had thrown the gun into a storm drain.
The driver couldn’t tell them an exact location, but said he would show them. When they arrived to the neighborhood near 75th Street West and Cortez Road it was still dark, and the detectives were told “it’s somewhere around here.”
According to Curulla, the alleged driver told them, “I think it’s this street,” but Curulla added, “when we got out there, there wasn’t a drainage ditch.”
The detectives were taken to the next block, but the driver was still unsure.
Defense attorney Brett McIntosh asked Curulla if the county had flushed the sewers.
“No, they couldn’t do one,” Curulla said. “We actually had the county sewer people with us, popping up the lids. We went manually sewer by sewer.”
But a gun was never found, he added.
McIntosh questioned why the driver had never been charged, even though a crack pipe was found in the car and he had been driving on a suspended license.
Curulla explained that while narcotics are often tied to homicides, he is a homicide detective.
“To do my job and do my job well, I am totally focused on the homicides,” Curulla said. “I am totally focused on what my job is, which is to arrest a murderer ... I have never arrested somebody in my homicide investigations for something that is driving or narcotics related.”
Testimony in the trial is expected to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.