CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — Prosecutors believe a dispute over $140,000 was behind the shooting that left a former standout Millville High School football player dead in 2011.
“It is the reason they are grabbing Khalil Wallace, locking the doors and confronting him with weapons,” First Assistant Prosecutor Rob Johnson said during a hearing Wednesday on motions including dismissal of the murder charges against two of the defendants. The motion was rejected.
On Sept. 20, 2011, Wallace, 19, climbed into a minivan with three other men — Andre Gross, Norman Gray and Boris Curwen — outside a small store in Woodbine.
“They yell, ‘Lock the doors,’” Johnson told Superior Court Judge Patricia Wild. “Within a matter of minutes, seconds, they shoot him.”
Johnson said Gross believed Wallace had stolen the money, the proceeds of an alleged drug distribution network, and that was why the men traveled from Millville to Woodbine that day.
“They came armed. They came ready,” Johnson said.
But attorneys David R. Branco and H. Parker Smith, representing Gross and Gray, respectively, argued the murder indictment against the men should be tossed because the grand jury was never told that Wallace was also carrying a weapon that day.
“There is objective evidence that shows this matter is a viable self-defense (case),” Branco told the judge.
An autopsy found Wallace was shot three times that day. Curwen has previously said that Gray fired the first shot and that he remembered four or five shots.
Johnson said another witness reported hearing five shots fired.
Branco said that one bullet ended up lodged in the back seat of the minivan behind Gray and must have been fired by Wallace.
“It’s clear here the victim was the first aggressor,” Branco said.
Johnson, however, said ballistics recovered evidence of only two weapons being fired. No weapon was ever recovered.
“They were the initial aggressors,” Johnson said. “You cannot violently confront somebody then fall back on self-defense.”
Branco pointed to Curwen’s testimony, in which he said there were three guns and argued that the only explanation for the bullet lodged behind Gray was that Wallace fired a weapon.
Gross, the driver, was not armed and Curwen, who was seated in the front passenger seat, was not in the position to fire the shot, Branco said.
“We don’t know that Khalil Wallace … didn’t fire the first shot,” Branco said.
Johnson said the plan was to kidnap, rob and kill Wallace.
Curwen, who has pleaded guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, previously told the judge that Gross handed him a gun and told him, “If he tries to do anything, just pull it out on him and put something hot in him.”
Wild ruled that the indictments would stand and that any argument of self-defense would be for a jury to decide.
She also found that mention of gang-related activity during the grand jury presentation did not taint the grand jury’s findings.
Wild will rule in May on the prosecution’s motion to admit evidence of Gross’ past behavior, which includes a 2003 incident when he kidnapped and pistol whipped someone.
A trial could take place late this fall.
Contact Trudi Gilfillian: