Mario Adams, left and Rafael Olmo, are on trial for murder. Olmo is accused of hiring two men to kill Deanna Downs, an Egg Harbor City mother of two who allegedly witnessed Olmo shoot someone.

Edward Lea

MAYS LANDING — A star witness will get $2,500 toward a new life after testifying at the trial of two men accused of killing an Egg Harbor City mother to keep her from going to court.

The Egg Harbor Township man is one of two people listed as witnesses to a 2009 shooting in which one man died and another was wounded. The other witness, Deanna Downs, was killed Oct. 16, 2010.

Now, Rafael Olmo and Mario Adams are on trial for Downs' fatal shooting. Prosecutors say Olmo ordered the hit that Adams carried out. Other charges include murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

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The witness — whose name the state has asked not be published for his safety — testified that he was threatened with death as well.

“You’re going to leave after you’re done testifying?” Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Maher asked.

“You know that,” the man replied.

He later said the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office promised him $2,500 to help relocate with his family. It is not a witness protection program, and he will not be given a new identity.

The man and Downs both were listed as witnesses in the Oct. 12, 2009, shooting at the Harbor City Apartments in Egg Harbor City. Just more than a year later, Downs would be found dead in the courtyard of that same complex, where she lived with her mother, brothers and two sons.

On Monday, the other witness said he was leaving Christi’s Bar and Sports Grill off the then-Airport Circle in Egg Harbor Township sometime after the 2009 incident, when a car pulled up and a man stepped out.

“I seen this guy there in the green shirt,” he said, pointing to Adams, who flashed a look of shock as he sat at the defense table.

“You know exactly what happens to people who go to court, right?” the witness said Adams told him. “I said, ‘Tell Ricky (Olmo) that I don’t want to testify.’”

On cross-examination, Adams’ defense attorney questioned what that meant, and if there had been a clear threat.

“If somebody from the streets goes like this to you,” the witness said, his thumb out and index finger pointed up, “it means they’re going to blow your head off.”

But Adams' attorney, Michael Schreiber, said there was nothing in the man’s statement to investigators that indicated the threat came with a gun motion.

“You said it was a gun motion,” the witness told Schreiber. “I never said it was a gun motion. He went like this.”

Again, he put up his thumb with his index finger extended.

The witness was unable to answer details about the incident, including what day or even month it happened. Schreiber also questioned him about height and weight.

“I can’t say because I don’t know,” he replied.

“How much do you think I weigh?” Schreiber asked.

“I don’t know,” the man said. “140 or 150?”

“Would it surprise you if I said I weigh 190?” Schreiber asked. “Are you always that far off on giving descriptions?”

But the man insisted he never forgets a face.

He finally put a name to that face in April 2011, when he saw Adams’ picture — along with former co-defendant Dontay Matthews — in The Press of Atlantic City, after both were charged in the shooting.

Despite the help of the Prosecutor’s Office to move him, the witness still didn't want to testify, it seems.

Under questioning by Schreiber, the witness admitted he had been arrested in order to make him testify.

“In order to leave, you have to testify first?” Schreiber asked.

“That’s what you’re telling me,” the witness replied. “I don’t know.”

Downs’ mother also testified Monday, saying her daughter left the apartment they shared close to 11:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 2010. Terri Downs said her daughter told her she was going to smoke her pipe. The glass pipe — which the defense has referred to as a crack pipe — was used to smoke tobacco, the mother said.

Terri Downs said Deanna had told her that Dontay Matthews — the victim’s alleged drug dealer — had been bugging her all that day about trying “a sample.” But the older woman denied she ever told investigators that Deanna had been keeping lookout for Matthews to come by.

“I didn’t say that,” Terri Downs told Olmo’s attorney, Stephen Funk, during cross-examination.

She denied several other items in the investigators’ reports, including that her daughter smoked crack cocaine, would mix drugs in her pipe and that the dead woman’s then-10-year-old son said Matthews treated him differently after the killing.

“I’m not sure he even knew who (Matthews) was,” the woman said of her grandson.

Terri Downs said her daughter never told her she sometimes bought drugs from Matthews, who has since confessed to his part in the crime, and is expected to testify for the state.

The trial will continue Tuesday before Superior Court Judge Kyran Connor.

Contact Lynda Cohen:


@LyndaCohen on twitter

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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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