Fugitive from 2015 Absecon motel shooting to stay in jail until trail

Donnell Nicholas, left, appears in court Thursday, when he was ordered to remain in the Atlantic County jail until his next court appearance in connection with a 2015 Absecon motel shooting that killed two people.

An Atlantic County Superior Court judge has decided the fourth man charged in a March 2015 Absecon motel shooting will remain in jail until trial.

Donnell Nicholas, 25, of Atlantic City, waved to his family sitting in the visitors gallery Thursday, then stood before Superior Court Judge John Rauh.

Nicholas was a fugitive until he was arrested Tuesday by FBI agents and Atlantic City police, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in a statement.

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On Aug. 23, Nicholas and three others were charged with felony murder, along with robbery, conspiracy, unlawful possession of a handgun and possession of a handgun for unlawful purposes, in connection with the March 2015 shooting deaths of two men.

Just before 5 a.m. March 1, 2015, Absecon police responded to the Red Roof Inn on East Absecon Boulevard, where Diante Owens, 22, of Pleasantville, and Gerald Alvarez, 22, of Mays Landing, were found dead.

Authorities said the four suspects went to a room at the motel where drugs were being sold to commit a robbery. Both sides fired guns, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

Nicholas and another occupant of the room, Zackery M. Geckeler, 23, of Galloway Township, later arrived at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, for treatment of gunshot wounds.

His defense attorney said Thursday that Nicholas “is a victim himself,” as one of the people shot that night.

Rauh handed down the decision to keep Nicholas in jail, saying he was unsure of Nicholas’ willingness to return to court. Nicholas’ next court appearance is set for June 6.

The three charged along with Nicholas are Brian Bennett, 25, of Pleasantville, Aaquile Reeves, 20, of Absecon, and Tywan Dixon, 22, of Pleasantville. Bennett and Reeves were arrested Aug. 23. Dixon was found and arrested Aug. 30 in Glen Burnie, Maryland, and later taken to the Atlantic County jail.

The occupants of the motel room — Geckeler, Trevor S. Murray, 22, of Mays Landing, and Ashley A. Villari, 23, of Mays Landing — face drug and weapons charges.

Contact: 609-272-7286 lcarroll@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_LC

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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