Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jun 2008
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Chico Enterprise-Record
Note: Does not print letters from outside circulation area
Author: Terry VAU Dell, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


OROVILLE -- A Vallejo man went on trial Wednesday, charged with the 
murders of two of three men killed in a gun battle during a marijuana 
buy at an Oroville motel in 2006.

Though there is no evidence Deandre Tyrone Lowe, now 39, was ever 
armed, prosecutors are charging him with murder under the so-called 
"felony murder rule," which holds accomplices liable for deaths that 
occur during certain serious crimes.

According to police reports, during the Oct. 22, 2006, transaction at 
the Best Value Inn in Oroville, one of four would-be buyers, Dejuan 
Dean, 34, of Vallejo, pulled a gun and ordered the other two men with 
him -- including Lowe -- to scoop up the money and drugs, from three 
Concow area pot sellers.

Thomas Kile, 37, of Concow, pulled his own gun at that point. In the 
ensuing gun battle, Kile, Dean and a second drug buyer, Lee Miles 
Nixon, 33, were killed.

Lowe's Oakland attorney, Mario Andrews told Lowe's jury Wednesday the 
government reasoned, "Three men are dead and someone has to pay."

The defense attorney pointed out all three of the surviving white 
marijuana sellers involved in the deal were allowed to plead guilty 
to "simple drug charges" and a fourth man, who rode with them to the 
motel, was not charged at all because he had no criminal record and 
would make a "perfect witness" for the prosecution.

Conversely, Andrews told the all-white seven-man, five-woman jury the 
prosecution saw Lowe as the "perfect defendant" to take the rap 
Advertisement for the deaths, because he was from out of town, had 
twice gone to prison for drug-related crimes and, "he's black, too."

District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who is prosecuting the case, contends 
Lowe drove up with the other two men from the Bay Area, carrying a 
roll of "flash money" intended to put the sellers off their guard.

The $12,000 was far less than needed to purchase the 20 pounds of 
pot, much of which was medical marijuana.

Inside the motel room following the deadly shoot-out, police found a 
package of plastic zip-lock ties containing Nixon's fingerprints, 
which the prosecution contends the three Bay Area men had brought to 
tie up the sellers.

"This was a drug rip-off gone horribly and predictable bad," Ramsey said.

Testifying for the prosecution Wednesday were two of the convicted 
pot sellers, Joshua Roberts, now 23, of Oroville, and Jeffrey Hutton, 
38, of Concow and a friend of Hutton's who was never charged in the 
case, Philip Velador of Red Bluff.

Velador, a licensed vocational nurse, claimed that on the day of 
ill-fated drug deal, he had gone up to visit Hutton, a close friend 
since high school, to help him trim some of his medical marijuana and 
watch football.

He denied taking part in the drug deal, saying he only went along for 
the ride that afternoon. Roberts and a third co-defendant, Shaun 
McDeavitt, were paroled only a few weeks ago after serving identical 
four-year prison sentences based on a felony drug plea.

Hutton testified Wednesday he drew 150 days in jail and 200 hours of 
community service after pleading guilty to transportation of marijuana.

He told the jury Kile had called earlier in the day to ask if he 
could supply some marijuana for the large transaction that was being 
set up. Hutton testified he brought about three pounds of his medical 
marijuana over to Kile's home.

Roberts, who admitted to being the "middle-man" in the deal, 
testified Nixon asked weeks earlier if he could arrange a sale of 
from five to 20 pounds of marijuana.

Roberts said Dean, in a phone call before the transaction, objected 
that the $2,800 per-pound price was too high. He said they also 
haggled over the location of the drug deal, with the buyers 
preferring to meet in Sacramento and the sellers wanting it closer to 
their Concow homes.

Hutton, Roberts and Velador told the jury Wednesday they did not know 
anyone in their group was armed that day.

Once at the motel, Dean continued to object to the price, before 
excusing him to go into the restroom and emerging a few seconds later 
with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, the sellers testified.

He fired a shot into the ceiling, ordered everyone onto the floor and 
directed his companions to grab the pot. That's when Kile pulled his 
own .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol and fired at Dean, Ramsey told the jury.

Nixon was found dead sprawled in a pool of blood in the motel 
doorway. Kile was fatally wounded inside the motel room and died 
later that night at a local hospital, as did Dean, who managed to 
crawl out into he motel parking lot before collapsing, his gun next to him.

Hutton told the jury he fled, but thought better of it and returned 
to the motel to surrender to police. Roberts was apprehended with the 
aid of a K-9 unit, and McDeavitt turned himself into his parole 
officer. Velador had taken refuge in a closet. Ramsey told the jury 
Lowe was arrested nearly a year later in Seattle.

The trial is scheduled to resume today and could be in the jury's 
hands by the end of next week.

More than a dozen family members and friends of Lowe said they plan 
to commute from Vallejo every day for the trial.

Kile's family was also present. His mother complained outside of 
court that until the trial, she had never received details of how her 
son died, nor were family members allowed to see his body at the 
hospital the night of the gunfight.
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