Jury selection underway in New London murder case

Attorneys began interviewing prospective jurors Wednesday in New London Superior Court for the murder trial of 22-year-old Evan J. Holmes.

Holmes, a lifelong New London resident, is accused of forcing his way into an apartment at 252 Montauk Ave. on Nov. 12, 2011, and fatally shooting 25-year-old Jorge “Loco” Rosa in his bed. He has been held in lieu of $500,000 since being arrested several hours after the shooting.

The trial is expected to begin Sept. 23 and last about three weeks. Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Paul J. Narducci and Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah W. Bowman are prosecuting. Lyme defense attorney William T. Koch Jr. is representing Holmes. Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed is presiding.

The attorneys will pick 12 regular jury members and four alternates over the next three weeks.

In taking his case to trial, Holmes rejected a plea offer from the state involving a lengthy prison sentence. He is charged with murder, felony murder, home invasion, home invasion with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit home invasion, first-degree burglary, commission of a felony with a firearm and criminal possession of a firearm.

The state alleges Holmes and Davion Smith broke into the apartment and confronted Rosa, 25, while he slept with his girlfriend, Gabriela Gonzales. Based on pretrial motions, it appears the defense will explore Gonzales’ credibility as a witness and may suggest that others had motive to kill Rosa. Koch said he had subpoeaned a therapist that Gonzales was seeing. He also told the judge that he intends to submit as evidence a plastic baggie found across the street from the crime scene that had Rosa’s fingerprints and contained cocaine residue. Investigators found another baggie of cocaine in the apartment.

The state is likely to object to the introduction of evidence suggesting so-called “third-party culpability.” Narducci asked that the issue be argued outside the presence of the jury before evidence is introduced.

“Case law is clear there has to be a direct connection,” Narducci said. “The fact that there may have been narcotics is not enough.”

Jongbloed said she would decide what would be admitted into evidence as the case goes along. At Koch’s request, the judge agreed to exclude the fact that Holmes had previously been convicted of a felony when reading the firearms possession charge to the jury.

Holmes had served 18 months in prison for shooting a man in the foot and had been released from prison just nine days before the shooting. According to court documents and testimony from a previous hearing, he had dated Rosa’s girlfriend, Gonzales, who broke up with him via mail while he was incarcerated.

Gonzales testified that she woke up that November morning to see Holmes and Smith, his close friend, standing at the foot of the bed holding guns. She said Holmes shot Rosa and the two gunmen fled. Rosa was pronounced dead at the scene.

New London police arrested Holmes hours later at an Old Saybrook motel. Smith spent the next four months at large and was arrested as he attempted to crawl out the second-floor window of a relative’s apartment.

Smith’s case is pending in the same courthouse and will be resolved after Holmes’ case is decided.

k.florin@theday.com

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