Lawyers assigned to grandson, co-defendants in Chester death

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comFebruary 6, 2013 

— Three defense attorneys have been appointed to represent the grandson of a Chester County woman and his two co-defendants after police say the three plotted to kill both of the boy’s grandparents last week because they were too strict.

Mike Lifsey, the Sixth Circuit public defender, appointed Rock Hill attorney Nathan Sheldon to represent Clayton Eli Watts, the grandson of Jimmie Diane Ray Paul, 59, who was shot to death Jan. 29 in her home at 1313 Williamsville Church Road.

Sheldon, who practices criminal and family law, declined to talk about the case, saying it is too “premature to comment.”

He said the only information he has seen is what has been reported by the media and the details available in an arrest warrant.

Vanessa Cason, a Greenville attorney, will represent Marqueas Issale Eric Buchanan, 18. Efforts to reach Cason on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Leah Moody, a Rock Hill attorney who does contract work for the Chester County Public Defender’s Office, will defend Shaiderius Demarck Cohen, 19, a 2012 Chester High School graduate.

Moody on Tuesday declined to comment on the case, having just received her notice of appointment and request for discovery, which enables defendants access to evidence and information prosecutors gather when building criminal cases.

For the rest of the week, Moody said she plans to learn as much as she can about the case, understand the allegations and speak with her client.

“They have their side of what happened,” she said, “and then the solicitor has his side.”

Watts, who turned 17 in December, had schemed since Christmas to kill his grandparents, who adopted and raised him, because they were too strict, police say. He offered to pay Buchanan and Cohen $5,000 to help him carry out the plot, police say.

On Jan. 29, Watts picked up Cohen and Buchanan in a car his grandparents bought for him, police say, and gave them the handguns used to shoot Paul.

All three waited in the house until Paul, a jury coordinator with the Chester County Clerk of Court Office, and her husband, Mack Paul, the county’s building and planning director, returned home.

Mack Paul, though, went directly to a shed near the back of the house to work on his motorboat, police said. When Jimmie Paul walked through her front door, she was shot three times, police said.

Deputies found her dead on the kitchen floor, with gunshot wounds to her leg and chest. Watts was sitting in a chair in the laundry room when he was arrested.

Buchanan was arrested early Jan. 30; Cohen was arrested late Thursday.

Deputies on Friday said they were still interviewing people, including Watts’ and Buchanan’s peers at Chester High School, where they were students.

On Tuesday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Mary Ann Tolbert said investigators have decided they won’t file charges against anyone else in connection with the killing.

Questioning others, she said, “was just follow-up.”

Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield said he doesn’t have any indication of whether officials plan to file additional charges on the current defendants.

He did say that Watts will be tried as an adult.

“If you’re 17 years old and are charged with committing a crime, you are an adult,” he said. “Eighteen has nothing to do with our system.”

At 17, “you’re an adult for purposes of criminal charges,” he said.

Although Jimmie Paul worked in the Clerk of Court office, Barfield said he doesn’t foresee any conflict of interest in prosecuting the case.

“If the victim in the case were an employee of mine or related to me or something like that, certainly it would be an issue,” he said. “I don’t foresee an issue in this case simply because Ms. Paul was employed by the Clerk of Court,” an office he said is separate and distinct from his.

“It’s just an office that we work with on a regular basis.”

Jonathan McFadden 803-329-4082