Defendant Kory McClary, 27, right, and attorney Robert Gamburg listen to opening statement at his his murder trial, Tuesday Aug. 20, 2013, at the Atlantic County courthouse in the Mays Landing section of Hamilton Township. McClary is accused of killing two men in Atlantic City.

Michael Ein

Kory McClary is accused of dispensing “street justice” when two teens were fatally gunned down in Atlantic City, allegedly in retaliation for an armed robbery.

Now it’s up to a jury to decide whether courtroom justice means convicting McClary of the crime — or acquitting him.

After nearly two weeks of testimony, jurors are deliberating 20 counts against McClary, now 27, including murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the June 22, 2008, killings of Michael Nelson, 15, and Phillip Fano, 19, both of Atlantic City.

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The two teens along with others — including David Hood Jr. — were on the 1000 block of North Ohio Avenue looking at a car for sale when the two victims were each shot in the head.

Less than 24 hours earlier, both Nelson’s and Hood’s homes had been shot up, with the shell casings found there matching at least one of the three types found at the homicide scene.

Hood and Nelson allegedly robbed McClary, whom Hood’s father said came to his barbershop looking for his son less than an hour before bullets struck their Caspian Avenue home.

McClary was later arrested on a separate charge in Alabama. There, he allegedly told two different cellmates about what he had done in New Jersey.

But the two men with long criminal histories are not believable, defense attorney Robert Gamburg told the jurors.

“Would you accept their word on the street?” he asked. “No. ... Are you going to accept their word now without any one of the facts being verified?”

But the verification came, Assistant Prosecutor Dave Ruffenach told the jurors, when two men in Alabama knew details of a crime in Atlantic City.

“They weren’t getting The Press of Atlantic City in Alabama,” Ruffenach said. “They especially weren’t getting it in the county jail.”

Yet, both men knew about the robbery, about the homes being shot up, and about a woman who could identify McClary because she was standing on a porch when Nelson’s Drexel Avenue home was shot up, Ruffenach said.

McClary threatened Cathy Cruz about appearing at the trial, according to the two inmates who came from Alabama to testify. But she did, breaking down on the stand, then positively identifying McClary.

Gamburg, however, pointed out that first Cruz said the street told her it was “redheaded Phil” who had been the shooter. Then, she picked “dark-haired Kory” out of the photo array she was given.

“They took a theory then made the facts fit the theory,” Gamburg said.

Instead, the state is asking the jury to ignore facts that don’t fit, he said, using a child’s wooden puzzle with a wrong piece to illustrate his point.

There is no physical evidence, he said, although there were fingerprints of other men inside the car McClary allegedly shot from.

“Whose car doesn’t have other people’s fingerprints in it?” Ruffenach asked. “That doesn’t mean the defendant wasn’t in the car. It just means that other people were in the car, too.”

The puzzle and allegations that it was “redheaded Phil” are “all just distractions,” Ruffenach said.

In addition to murder, McClary is charged with conspiracy, six counts of aggravated assault and weapons offenses. He is jailed on $1 million full cash bail. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

Contact Lynda Cohen:


Follow Lynda Cohen on Twitter @LyndaCohen


Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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