In a Chester County courtroom Tuesday, the three teens charged with murder in a grandmother’s shooting death came together for the first time since the bullets flew in January.
The probable cause hearing – to determine whether prosecutors had enough evidence to move forward with murder cases against Clayton Eli Watts, 17, Marqueas Buchanan, 18, and Shaiderius Cohen, 19 – was postponed because two of the lawyers didn’t receive proper scheduling notice and were not there. Prosecutors have rescheduled it for April 24, officials said Wednesday.
Tuesday was important just the same. The three teens were together again, except this time, they were shackled. The last time they were together was Jan. 29, police and prosecutors say, when they waited for Watts’ grandmother to arrive home from work.
Cohen shot Jimmie Paul, 59, in a scheme Watts hatched, prosecutors say. According to the plan, Watts would pay the other two $5,000 to get rid of his grandparents, who demanded he clean up his room.
Police have said previously that all three gave statements acknowledging involvement in the crime.
Minutes after Tuesday’s hearing was postponed, fathers of two of the accused teenagers stood on gravel driveways of the humble homes where each lives and wondered whether they would ever see their sons again outside a jail visiting room.
‘The wrong people’
One father, a disabled heart attack survivor named Isaac Buchanan Jr., with another son in the Marines in Bosnia, wept openly. He talked of the thick stack of college letters his son, Marqueas, had received – paperwork replaced by legal documents about murder.
Isaac Buchanan wondered how his son could have gone from playing in the school band one day to accused killer the next.
“I feel for the victim; it is killing me just as bad about her as it is killing me that my son is locked up,” Isaac Buchanan said. “Paco – my son’s nickname is Paco – was getting ready for college. He was the one in this neighborhood everybody thought would be the one who made it.
“I just don’t ... I don’t understand how it happened.”
Just then, a guy walked by on Parkway Drive – home to many idle and unemployed – and said, “Paco was the one we thought would make it out of here.”
Marqueas, a senior in high school, had no criminal record until Jan. 29.
“Why would this guy (Watts) even want his grandparents dead?” Isaac Buchanan wondered. “My son just got tangled up with the wrong people.”
Isaac Buchanan said Tuesday that Watts repeatedly asked his son through text messages to go through with the plot, but his son refused until Cohen saw the messages and said he wanted in.
‘He’s an adult now’
Shaiderius Cohen lived with his father and grandmother in a small house on West Lacy Street on another side of Chester.
Michael Cohen stood outside that little house Tuesday and grieved for the victim. He said he knew Jimmie Paul through her job in the Chester County clerk of courts office.
“She was a good lady,” Michael Cohen said. “She always helped me at the courthouse.”
Michael Cohen said he “hates it for all three” of the accused, too, but Watts and Buchanan are “pointing the finger” at his son.
Lula Cohen, Shaiderius Cohen’s grandmother, said Tuesday from the porch of that same Lacy Street home that her grandson has more to say concerning his involvement, but she did not elaborate.
Michael Cohen said he repeatedly told his son not to get involved in crime or to be around people in crime. Shaiderius Cohen’s only criminal record before he was charged with murder was having given police an alias in an unrelated case in January.
“Make your bed, you gotta lie down in it,” Michael Cohen said. “He wanted to go to college, be an auto mechanic. I told him to keep the dream alive, don’t mess up his life.
“I told him he’s an adult now, he’s not a child no more.”
In the tiny magistrate courtroom Tuesday, Shaiderius Cohen and Marqueas Buchanan stood about 3 feet from each other before the hearing was canceled. Off by himself a few feet away, stood the alleged mastermind of the plot that landed all three in jail – Clayton Eli Watts.
Watts said nothing Tuesday. He stood there, his shaggy hair cut short since his arrest, facing the possibility that he will die in jail if he is convicted.
The solution prosecutors say he came up with after his grandparents asked him to live by their rules in their house: hire somebody to kill them.
Known as Eli, Watts started planning before Christmas to kill Jimmie Paul and her husband, Chester County Planning Director Mack Paul, police say.
Watts provided the guns, prosecutors say – including at least one that belonged to his grandparents, worked on the scheme for more than a month, and picked up the other two in a truck paid for by the grandparents he wanted to kill.
No money changed hands, police have said. After Jimmie Paul was shot, they say, Buchanan and Cohen fled in fright, but Watts sat in the laundry room with his grandmother bleeding from her leg and chest just feet away.
Mack Paul was not in court Tuesday. He could not be reached later for comment.
Tuesday’s hearing was canceled because court-appointed attorneys for two of the three defendants didn’t receive proper notice. Sixth Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield apologized to Magistrate Diane Moore for the oversight.