This week we head over to Binghamton, in Broome County, New York. It’s about a 2 ½ drive northwest from 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, and an hour and 15 minutes due north to Marshall Street in Syracuse. Binghamton gets a lot of snow, but it is not as greatly affected by the famous lake-effect snow as cities further north or west such as Syracuse and Buffalo, which are part of the Great Lakes Snowbelt. The Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park, in the Southside, opened in 1875, and is the fifth-oldest zoo in the nation. The Binghamton Philharmonic, founded in 1955, is the region's premiere professional orchestra. It provides symphonic music to all of the Southern Tier.
Binghamton is home to SUNY (yes) Binghamton, a selective top-ranking public university, considered to be a Public Ivy. It is also where you can find a spiedie: a sandwich local to Binghamton. It consists of cubes of chicken, pork, lamb, veal, venison or beef (and tofu for the vegetarian cultists.). The cubes are marinated overnight or longer, then grilled on spits over a charcoal pit. One of those washed down with a Southern Tier Harvest Ale is off-the-rails amazing.
But this week’s case will be hard to digest: it is a veritable nightmare. A home invasion on a crisp November morning. Two masked men break into a home armed with tasers, knives, and lighter fluid. One of the victims is horribly assaulted; the other dies. With no fingerprints or DNA, how can a masked criminal be brought to justice? Maybe, sometimes, the bad guy just gets away.
Now would be the time to stop reading, if you think it will be too much. Here we go:
ENTER: Masked Man 1 – we will call him Nigel; Masked Man 2 – we will call him Julian; Jordan, 23 years old, a victim; Rachel, Jordan’s fiancé, 19 years old (6 months pregnant); Rimbo, a newspaper deliveryman; Jill, Jordan’s sister; Jason Deskin, Nigel’s friend; Jaylia, Nigel’s girlfriend.
SETTING: It was five years ago, November, in Binghamton, at a house located on Mygatt Street. It is early morning and Jordan and Rachel are sleeping. The attack is horrific. Jordan does not survive. Rachel survives and reports the attack to the police. Julian and Nigel are arrested and charged. Julian takes a plea. Nigel pleads NOT GUILTY. We are now at the Broome County Courthouse for the trial of Nigel Saunders.
TESTIMONY OF RIMBO:
Q: Where were you at 6:00 a.m. on November 4, 2013?
A: I was making newspaper deliveries to the stores on my route. So, at that time, I was driving on Mygatt Street in the City of Binghamton. I saw a girl walking in the street, naked from the waist down, covered in blood. When I pulled up near her I heard her crying for help.
Q: What did you do?
A: I helped her up into the truck to get her warmed up and she told me her name was Rachel. I called 911. I was on the phone with the dispatcher who was asking what happened to Rachel. Rachel was saying that her boyfriend had been killed, that she had been beaten, stabbed and violated by two guys in masks and that they stole the boyfriend's truck, a black 2001 Dodge Ram, and took off from the house.
Q: Did Rachel say who they were?
A: Yeah, she said Nigel was one of the two assailants. We gave them his address. Then the ambulance came and took her. I finished my deliveries, but I was pretty shaken up.
[Nigel was arrested later that day.].
TESTIMONY OF RACHEL:
Q: What happened on November 4?
A: Jordan and I had gone to bed at about 10:30 p.m. the night before. We were awakened in the middle of the night when two men wearing ski masks busted into the bedroom yelling "DEA." They started shocking us with tasers and beating the both of us. I was brought into the upstairs hallway and told to sit down, as my hands were getting tied behind my back. The other guy in the mask kept beating on Jordan.
Q: Did you recognize the man who was tying up your hands.
A: I couldn’t see him, so, at first, no. But then, he asked me where the money and weed were. I immediately recognized the voice – it was our former roommate, Nigel.
Q: What did you do next?
A: I showed Nigel where the money was, and he took the $1,000 we had stashed in the bedroom.
Q: What happened next?
A: The two guys then took us to a small room in the basement. Nigel tied our ankles together, and then he went upstairs. The other guy then assaulted me, you know, sexually. Then he locked us in the basement room and returned upstairs.
Q: What happened next?
A: A little later, they both came back downstairs. Nigel hit me in the head with a machete, before going back upstairs. When they were upstairs, we were able to untie the restraints. When the other guy came back down, Jordan tried to rush him, but that guy had a knife and just started stabbing Jordan. And Jordan stopped moving. He was dead. And then that guy started stabbing me in the stomach, arm, leg and back and then once again left the room. When he came back I tried to play dead, but he poured like a gassy fluid over both me and Jordan, and lit it on fire. I jumped away but that guy pushed me back in the room, locked the door and left. I heard Jordan's truck start and drive away. I grabbed a broomstick and smashed a window and got out. Then I was just walking when Mr. Rimbo rescued me.
Q: How did you know Nigel?
A: Nigel and Jordan had been friends since the were just little kids. In like April or May 2013, after Jordan’s moms died, Nigel moved in with me and Jordan. In June 2013, $7,000 went missing and we knew Nigel did it, so we called the cops. We didn’t hear from him since then.
Q: Did Nigel go to jail because of that?
A: Yeah, but for an unrelated parole violation.
TESTIMONY OF JILL (Jordan’s Sister):
Q: Did you ever receive any communications from Nigel?
A: Yeah. When he got out of jail, before he killed my brother, he sent a Facebook message to me. It was October 8. He was blaming Jordan for him having been sent back to jail and threatening that he was going to "f*ck Jordan up."
Q: He was your FB friend?
TESTIMONY OF JASON DESKIN (Nigel’s Friend):
Q: Did you speak with Nigel before the incident of November 4?
A: Yes, sir. On the night of November 3, Nigel came over to get a gun and some stuff. He said he had a "score" to settle with "people that he lived with before." I didn’t have no gun, but I asked Nigel to get me heroin. So like a couple hours later, me and my girl rode with another friend to pick up Nigel and his boy, Julian Talamantez – they lived together with Theresa Papio — to go get drugs. And we like dropped them off around the corner from Rachel and Jordan’s house at like 1:00 a.m.
TESTIMONY OF THERESA PAPIO (Nigel’s Roommate):
Q: What did you observe just after 1:00 a.m. on November 4?
A: I saw Nigel and Julian outside of our apartment unloading stuff and putting it into out apartment. It was Jordan and Rachel’s truck. Julian was covered in blood and I saw him change his bloody clothes and put them in a garbage bag and he threw them in a nearby dumpster.
Q: Ms. Papio, you are a junky?
A: I use. Yeah.
TESTIMONY OF JAYLIA (Nigel’s Girlfriend):
Q: Did you speak to Nigel after he was arrested for the killing and assault in question?
A: Yes. After Nigel got taken in, I went to visit him. Nigel told me to go to his apartment and get cash that he had hidden in the ceiling above his bedroom. It was all bloody. I got scared, so I turned it in.
NIGEL’S CLOSING STATEMENTS:
People of the jury, there is absolutely no competent evidence proving that Nigel was present at the time of the assault on the Mygatt Street home. What happened was tragic. But you cannot be compelled by emotion to forgive the prosecution for coming to this court with no fingerprints, no DNA, or anything else except for the testimony of a teenager who was under a severe attack stating that based upon knowing Nigel for a few months that she was sure it was his voice that belonged to one of the attackers. The bloody money allegedly found in his bedroom? Well, Julian, his roommate lived in the same house. Would that not have been a great hiding place for Julian? Someone else’s living space? And what else was given to you: the testimony of Theresa – A JUNKY! Do not make this tragedy worse and do not let the police off the hook from their obligation to find the real accomplice in this horrific crime.
We, the members of the jury, hearing this matter charge the defendant with the crimes of burglary in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, murder in the second degree (two counts) and assault in the second degree.
After due deliberations and after considering all the evidence, find the defendant Nigel……GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS.
THE SENTENCE: Nigel Saunders was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
The appellate court ruled: “Although a different verdict would not have been unreasonable, given the lack of forensic evidence linking defendant to the crime scene, when viewing the evidence in a neutral light and deferring to the jury's credibility determinations, we find that the evidence presented at trial overwhelmingly established defendant as one of the perpetrators and we are satisfied that his convictions are supported by the weight of the evidence.”
Nigel will not see the light of day in the free world for at least a quarter of a century.
Julian pled guilty and was sentenced to 40 years to life.
Excerpted Testimony of Rachel:
Q: By the way: Baby okay?
A: Yes. Thank God. She’s perfect.
See you next week.
Here is the case: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2019/2019_07645.htm