Chester murder charge dropped after grand jury opts not to indict

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comOctober 1, 2013 

— Murder charges against a man deputies said fired the shots that killed a Chester teenager at his best friend’s birthday party in June have been dismissed after the grand jury opted not to indict him.

Quinton McClinton, 24, was released from jail last month after members of the grand jury stamped “no bill” on his murder indictment on Sept. 10, documents show. Members of the grand jury must stamp “true bill” on an indictment before a defendant can be tried for a crime and must find probable cause for a charge before it continues in court.

Deputies said Tuesday they have uncovered evidence in the shooting death of Kendall Maureece Culp and will speak with prosecutors to determine if the case can be presented to the grand jury again.

McClinton was charged with murder two days after Culp, 18, was killed at his friend’s 17th birthday party on Old York Road, where about 100 teenagers had gathered.

Deputies went to the party at about 12:30 a.m. June 23 in response to shots being fired after an argument between McClinton and Dasean Moses, 20. Culp, who friends described as kindhearted, “goofy” and “playful,” was caught in the crossfire and struck in the chest with a bullet.

He was not the intended target, police said, and was unarmed.

When authorities arrived, they performed CPR until EMS took Culp to Chester Regional Medical Center, according to a Chester County Sheriff’s report. Culp died there of a single gunshot wound.

McClinton, who authorities said is affiliated with gangs, also was taken to Chester Regional for treatment of two “life-threatening” gunshot wounds to the chest, police documents show.

Deputies recommended that the hospital go on lockdown to prevent possible retaliation. McClinton later was taken to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he was in critical condition in the intensive care unit until his condition improved. While in the hospital, police charged him with murder.

Last month, the case was presented to the grand jury. Jurors did not indict McClinton, deciding there was not enough probable cause to justify the charges, said Deputy Sixth Circuit Solicitor Chris Taylor.

“It effectively ends the case,” Taylor said.

Charges against McClinton were dropped. Of 41 indictments presented to the Chester County grand jury last month, McClinton’s was the only one stamped with “no bill.”

Weeks earlier, a magistrate upheld McClinton’s murder charge during a probable cause hearing where prosecutors must detail all the evidence they have to charge a defendant, said Julie Hall, assistant Sixth Circuit solicitor.

Authorities sifted through several conflicting statements made by witnesses about what happened at the party, Hall said.

Deputies never recovered a gun from McClinton, although they did find the gun Moses is alleged to have used.

The bullets investigators found at the scene of the killing matched bullets likely fired from Moses’ gun, Hall said. Deputies said they believed Moses first pulled the trigger. Police say McClinton fired back.

The discarded shell casings found at the scene matched where witnesses said the gunmen were standing, said Maj. Mary Anne Tolbert of the Chester County Sheriff’s Office.

Witnesses said Culp stood near Moses when the shooting started, according to Hall. Moses “admitted to shooting at McClinton,” Hall said.

After the charges were dropped, McClinton’s bond was reduced to $50,000 for other pending charges, Hall said. He left jail on Sept. 20.

On Tuesday, McClinton sat on the porch of his mother’s home and told The Herald of his plans to sue police because they charged him after taking the words of witnesses rather than questioning him.

He said gunshot residue tests returned negative, and he denied taking a gun to the party. He said he did not kill Culp, his “cousin and homeboy.”

During the party, Moses, who he has known for years, was “going around, acting crazy,” he said. “I don’t know what was on his mind. He just came to the party acting crazy.”

A confrontation ensued. McClinton said he walked away from Moses and, about an hour later, shots went off.

He was hit by a bullet in the arm and chest. He said he last saw Culp standing in the middle of a field trying to run to his car.

Friends took McClinton to the hospital, and two days later police “threw the handcuffs on me and told me I was charged with murder,” he said. “It’s crazy how they can lock you up” without more evidence.

McClinton said his family has paid his lawyer at least $15,000, not including the $5,000 they paid for his jail bond. He is on a court-mandated curfew, able to move about freely from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., he said.

McClinton denied gang affiliations, admitting that issues with people in the past have resulted in him being shot. He has two attempted murder charges still pending after police arrested him in connection with a 2012 shooting on Loomis Street in Chester.

After his most recent arrest, “people were praying for me,” McClinton said. “I’m thankful the Lord blessed me ... and (did) not let me get railroaded” by a jury.

Vickie Sanders, who threw the party for her daughter, Tee Sanders, said for weeks after, “I was a nervous wreck.”

Culp, who Sanders said was like a son to her, died feet from her front porch. He and her daughter were close friends, she said.

“He was with her just about everyday,” she said.

His friends still gather near her home, at the spot Culp died, and light candles.

Robert Crank, who helped Sanders cook the night of the party, said he plans to erect a memorial – furnished with Culp’s picture, shrubbery and a cement patio – in that spot.

“One day, the light will come out,” Sanders said, adding that all she wants is “justice” for Culp.

Deputies last week received results from evidence they sent to the State Law Enforcement Division and plan to speak with the solicitor to determine if the case can be presented again to the grand jury, said Tolbert of the Sheriff’s Office.

She would not comment on that evidence but confirmed that police still believe McClinton is involved.

Taylor, the deputy solicitor, said authorities will look at the “whole case again to decide if we will re-submit it.”

The grand jury did indict Moses, who is charged with attempted murder.

He is being held at the Chester County Detention Center on a $50,000 bond.

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