CHESTER — Marqueas Paco Buchanan and Will Ferrari Rodriguez wanted to go down as legends.
When we die, we dont want to be remembered just by family, said Rodriguez, an aspiring Chester County rapper who, alongside Buchanan, recorded hip hop beats and sang lyrics about girls, swag, stress and school.
We want that Michael Jackson status.
That dream stopped short on Jan. 29 when police say Buchanan plotted with another friend, Shaiderius Demarck Cohen, 19, and his schoolmate, Clayton Eli Watts, 17, to kill Watts grandmother when she returned home from work at the Clerk of Court office in Chester.
The payoff: $5,000 from Watts after they finished the job, police said.
Watts had schemed since Christmas to kill his grandparents because they were too strict, investigators say, and he gave Cohen and Buchanan the guns they all used to shoot Jimmie Diane Paul, 59, after she walked through the front door of her Williamsville Church Road home.
Police found her dead on the kitchen floor, with gunshot wounds to the legs and chest. Watts was the first to be arrested. Buchanan was next, followed by Cohen a day later.
Watts and Buchanan admitted their involvement in the conspiracy, according to arrest warrants. Neither has a criminal history, officials said, but both are now charged with murder and possession of a firearm during a violent crime.
Jimmie Paul was killed on the same day Buchanan and Rodriguez released a mixed tape detailing their struggles, joys and pains. They passed the CDs out at Chester High School, Rodriguez said.
We had the same goals, Rodriguez said of Buchanan, whom he calls his best friend and brother. Our music is what brought us together.
Rodriguez first met Buchanan when he was a Chester High student. During a break between classes, he walked past Buchanan and heard him rapping. He told Buchanan, at the time a freshman, that he rapped, as well.
Since then, weve been best friends, Rodriguez said. Even when Rodriguez temporarily moved to Maryland, they kept recording music and writing songs, calling their collaboration SMG short for Self-Made Grindaz.
Under my wing
Phone calls between the grindaz usually ended the same way.
One of us would say, SMG, and the other would say, forever, Rodriguez said. They even had it tattooed it on their bodies Rodriguez on his chest; Buchanan on his back.
Were artists, Rodriguez said.
And, as an artist, Buchanan does it all, said Bernice Hughes, founder of Big Mouth Promoters, a talent agency that gives rappers, models and amateur actors a chance to expose their talents while keeping them off the streets and out of trouble.
Buchanan met Hughes when he was 15. Soon, I took him under wing, she said, giving him a stage for his singing and songwriting.
Together, they created music videos and planned to make films. Buchanan had aspirations to go to film school, Hughes said, and become a film production engineer.
When I let him perform for the first time, he was so excited...like I did something awesome for him, Hughes said about Buchanans first public performance at a high school party. He felt like a celeb.
Buchanan attended all the shows Hughes organized in Chester, often helping her set up and performing his own music, usually hip hop. This past New Years Eve, he spent six hours arranging chairs and setting up equipment for a talent expo at a Chester church.
He surprised Hughes when he started playing the piano, a skill she didnt realize he had.
Hughes was surprised again when, a day after Jimmie Paul was slain in her home, she learned of Buchanans arrest and charges.
Im just shocked, said Hughes, adding that Buchanan never made any mention of Watts or Cohen. I just think he got caught up. I can see him getting caught up.
Peer pressure, she said, is to blame. Hes an all-around good kid who spent his free time roaming the neighborhood with his headphones in his ears, not fighting or gang banging.
Thats not Paco, she said.
Hughes had made Buchanan a partner in a music and film production company she planned to start.
I was really going to do it for him, she said. I tried to do the best I could I tried to teach him to be commercial an entrepreneur. I thought we had some major stuff going.
Maybe things werent happening fast enough.
On Buchanans Facebook page, Hughes tagged him and Rodriguez in a post dated Jan. 16. She ensures them that shes working to get SMG started, so they could be giant.
Buchanan never responded.
We always recorded, Rodriguez said. We always got together...did shows, passed out CDs.
Our music is our hustle.
Buchanan never mentioned Watts plot, Rodriguez said; if he had, he likely would have tried to talked him out of it.
He just got caught up, Buchanan insisted. Thats not how my brother would act; thats not what my brother would be.
The wrong people
Lashay Honeydip Corley, a Charlotte entertainer who works with Big Mouth Promoters, said news about Buchanans alleged involvement in the murder-for-hire plot was hard to believe.
The young people who work with Big Mouth are all from the inner city, Corley said. The agency aims to keep young adults off the streets.
At regular boot camps, theyre taught to perform without using too much profanity, and encouraged to give back to the community.
Buchanan, Corley said, helped out with kids and took instruction well.
But it was obvious he thought highly of his peers, she said. When she first met him, Corley said, Buchanan had surrounded himself with a group of guys who were no good.
He looked up to people, she said. He was following up behind the wrong people. He confided in his peers, who led him in the wrong direction.
Corley worked with Buchanan occasionally, teaching him to tame his on-stage presence during performances.
He was trying to better himself, she said.
Little by little, Corley said, she saw progress but it wasnt enough.
Chesters a real small place and theres not a lot to do, she said. Its easy to be easily influenced.
Artists arent paid for the work they do for Big Mouth, Corley said, and people will do anything for money.
Maybe, if he was more financially stable, she said, he wouldnt have gotten into trouble.
Still, Buchanan comes from a good family and good home, Bernice Hughes said.
Hes just a little kid gone wrong, she said.
His grandmas just distraught about it, Rodriguez said. Were all really distraught.
Rodriguez speaks with Buchanan every day, Rodriguez said, and SMG lives on, just as Buchanan would want.
He told me to keep my head up to keep going, Rodriguez said. SMG forever.
Jonathan McFadden • (803) 329-4082