Chester murder suspect, 19, described as 'respectful' but a follower

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comFebruary 16, 2013 

— Half of Montrice Hinton is missing.

The missing half - his second cousin and best friend - sits in the Chester County Detention Center, charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. Shaiderius Cohen, 19, was arrested after deputies say he conspired in January with Clayton Eli Watts, 17, to kill Watts’ grandparents.

In return for the killings, Cohen was to receive $5,000 from Watts. Another man, Marqueas Issale Eric Buchanan, 18, also is charged.

Police said the scheme led to the murder of Watts’ grandmother, Jimmie Diane Paul, a 59-year-old jury coordinator at the Chester County Clerk of Court office. She was shot in the legs and chest when she walked through the front door of her Williamsville Church Road home on Jan. 29.

Her husband, Chester County building and planning director Mack Paul, was not injured. He was in a shed behind the house working on a motorboat when his wife was shot.

Watts schemed since Christmas to kill his grandparents because he believed they were too strict, investigators say. Watts and Cohen had not met before Jan. 29, said Maj. Mary Anne Tolbert of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office. But when Watts decided “that day was going to be the day,” Buchanan brought in Cohen, Tolbert said.

Watts picked up both men in a pickup truck his grandparents paid for and gave them the guns, including one stolen from the Pauls. One was a 9mm pistol, the other a .357 caliber revolver.

Police believe Cohen was the lone shooter, Tolbert said, and so far only one of the guns has been found-- the 9mm pistol.

Watts, Tolbert said, never fired the guns, and neither did Buchanan, who she said “got scared.”

Once Jimmie Paul was shot, Cohen and Buchanan fled back to their homes, where police later arrested them, Tolbert said.

When police arrived at the Pauls’ home around 6:30 p.m., they found Jimmie Paul’s body on the kitchen floor. Watts sat in a chair in the laundry room. He was the first to be arrested. Hours later, police took Buchanan into custody, followed a day later by Cohen.

Watts and Buchanan, both Chester High School students, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy, according to arrest warrants. Cohen eventually gave police a statement, confessing to his part in the conspiracy, Tolbert said.

“All of that,” she said, “was money motivated.”

Hinton, Cohen’s second cousin, said the pair liked to play video games. One of Cohen’s favorites was “NBA Live.”

In the winter, Cohen and Hinton picked pecans. When the weather was warm, they did yardwork for neighbors and washed cars for extra cash.

“He was no party type,” Hinton said.

When Hinton went out to parties, Cohen stayed home, Hinton said. “He kept to himself.”

They met when Cohen visited family members in Chester on the weekends. That’s when their bond formed. They became fast friends who would shoot basketball and compete in dominoes together.

Eventually, Cohen moved to Chester. Everyday, “we were together,” Hinton said.

“He has a good heart,” Hinton said, recalling a time Cohen gave $10 to a girl who didn’t have money to buy candy and a soda.

“I never saw him with guns,” Hinton said. “He’d just sit in the room and read the Bible while we were playing the game.”

Cohen, who Hinton said was a churchgoer, never mentioned Buchanan, Watts or the murder plot.

“He probably wasn’t himself when all that went down,” Hinton said.

Living along West Lacy Street, just a couple of blocks away from the core of Chester’s downtown area, Cohen was known for what longtime neighbor Debra Cockrell called his “hustle.”

Debra Cockrell never would’ve imagined that “Shai,” who played basketball and football with her 13-year-old son, Tyrone, and helped care for him when he was a baby, would be accused of killing someone.

“(Cohen) was very respectful,” she said. “I never had a problem at all.”

She didn’t make excuses for the killing, or the alleged greed.

“I don’t know why they thought $5,000 was a bunch of money,” she said.

Unable to comprehend

About five years ago, Linda Simpson mentored Cohen for two years while he attended WRAP (Wisdom Respect Acceptance Purpose), a community program once offered through Chester’s Hope Outreach Ministries that aimed to help teens with homework, while also warning them about drugs, sexual predators and peer pressure.

Some things with Cohen just didn’t “sink in,” she said.

“You’d be talking to him but it’s like you’d be talking at him,” she said. “It was something he could not comprehend...I just knew he was not comprehending. That was our major concern with him.”

When trying to teach Cohen “right from wrong,” Simpson said, “he just gave a stare.”

Simpson called Cohen a “good kid” with a “positive attitude.” But, she also said he was easily influenced by his peers.

“He was a follower,” Simpson said. “He did what everybody wanted him to do.”

Wyonia Hinton worked with Cohen in the program as well, often encouraging him to “be an original, not a copy.”

She would tell him: “Let someone look up to you and be an example.”

During Cohen’s last year in the program, Simpson became alarmed when she noticed that he lost a “tremendous amount of weight,” she said. Concerned, she asked if he was using drugs. Then, she asked if he was involved with gangs.

He answered no to both.

“Then I felt in my spirit that he had diabetes,” she said. “I went to his grandmother’s house” and told her that she thought Cohen might be a diabetic.

That same week, Simpson got a call from Cohen’s grandmother telling her that Cohen was in intensive care at the hospital after falling into a diabetic coma, she said.

He stayed in the hospital for almost a week.

‘Don’t sacrifice one’

Scottie Jenkins, a neighbor, said Cohen often spent time at his house.

“He was respectable...would say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’” Jenkins said.

“He’s good people; I know that,” said Mario Chalk, Cohen’s cousin. “He don’t mess with nobody.”

“We would’ve never saw that in him,” said Keith Cockrell, who lives just around the corner from Cohen’s family.

Cockrell didn’t try to lessen the impact of Cohen’s charges. He drew parallels, saying all three boys lived with their grandmothers and all three “did wrong.”

He fears Cohen will receive the harshest punishment since police have identified him as the “triggerman.”

“Don’t sacrifice one,” he said. “Don’t use one as a scapegoat. Don’t throw him away.”

Wyonia Hinton, with the WRAP community program, said she knows the families of all three accused murderers.

“My heart goes out to all the people whose families were involved,” she said. “It really, really hit me hard. I hate that it happened.”

So does Cohen’s grandmother, who Keith Cockrell said is taking her grandson’s arrest hard.

“It’s taking a toll on her,” he said. “She’s feeling that it’s her fault.”

Cohen’s grandmother declined to comment to The Herald or to give her name. But, from across the street, she shouted, “I love him and he’s in God’s hands now...that’s all I want to say.”

It’s also taking a toll on Montrice Hinton, now without his best friend and “brother.”

“I feel like half of me is missing,” he said.

That half, in prison without bond, can only receive visitors for one hour on Tuesdays, Hinton said.

He plans to make his first stop to the jail this week.