State setting scene as Holmes murder trial begins in New London

The murder trial of Evan J. Holmes got underway in New London Superior Court Monday with crime scene photos and testimony from first responders.

Holmes, 22, of New London, is accused of breaking into an apartment at 252 Montauk Ave. in the early morning hours of Nov. 12, 2011, and fatally shooting 25-year-old Jorge “Loco” Rosa in his bed.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty to murder, felony murder, first-degree burglary, home invasion, conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and criminal possession of a firearm by a previously convicted felon.

He opted for a trial rather than accept a plea deal involving a lengthy prison sentence and appeared before the jury of 12 regular members and four alternates wearing a black suit and freshly shorn hair. His family members sat behind him in the courtroom, while Rosa’s family and friends filled a few rows of benches on the other side.

Before the trial began, defense attorney William T. Koch Jr. asked Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed to sever the firearms charge from the rest of the information and try it separately so that the jury would not be prejudiced with the knowledge that Holmes was a previously convicted felon. Just nine days before the shooting, Holmes had been released after serving an 18-month prison sentence for shooting another man in the foot. The judge agreed to sever the charge and hear it separately if Holmes is found guilty.

Prosecutor Paul J. Narducci notified the judge that the state intends to seek an enhanced sentence for Holmes, based on the prior conviction, if he is convicted. Narducci then called as his first witness New London police Lt. Lawrence Keating, who was the street supervisor in charge of the midnight shift when the shooting occurred. Keating testified that he responded briefly to a disturbance outside the WildStyle Motorcycle Club on South Water Street about 3:30 a.m. The participants were dispersing as he arrived, and Keating left.

About 45 minutes later, Keating said he was dispatched to 252 Montauk Ave. for a report of shots fired. Arriving at the scene, Keating said Patrolman Benjamin Burbank told him he had seen somebody in the third-floor window. Keating said he looked up and nobody was there.

Keating said he and Burbank entered the multifamily home through a side entrance and noticed that the doorway leading to the third floor was damaged. Entering the apartment, Keating said he could smell marijuana and gunpowder.

Rosa was lying on the floor of the back bedroom, which overlooks the street, gasping for breath, according to Keating. His clothing was bloody and he did not respond when Keating asked who shot him. There were bullet casings on the bed and blood spatters on the wall and a dresser.

“I tried to get a dying declaration from him of who did this to him,” Keating testified.

There was no response, he said.

The prosecutor used a projector to show the jury a photograph of Rosa lying on the bedroom floor, sending some of his survivors out of the courtroom in tears and others grasping for tissues. Rosa was pronounced dead at the scene, leaving behind a close-knit family and a 6-year-old daughter.

The state was expected to continue calling other first responders to the witness stand throughout the day. When the trial resumes Tuesday, the prosecutor is expected to call to the witness stand Gabriela Gonzalez, who was in bed with Holmes when he was shot. Gonzalez testified at a previous hearing in the case that she woke up to see Holmes, her former boyfriend, and Davion Smith standing at the foot of the bed with guns and that Holmes shot Rosa.

Gonzalez said she had broken up with Holmes while he was incarcerated.

Smith, who has also pleaded not guilty to murder and home invasion charges, is incarcerated while his case is pending.

k.florin@theday.com

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