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Gerjuan Tyus, Darius Armadore deny involvement in shooting death of Todd Thomas

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Darius “P-Nut” Armadore and Gerjuana “Cali” Tyus, longtime friends on the street and co-defendants in a cold-case murder, referred to one another as “brothers” Wednesday when they testified separately at their murder trial in Superior Court in Norwich.

The jury heard from the two defendants after the state rested its case following nine days of testimony. The jury is expected to begin deliberating Thursday morning.

The two 35-year-old men admitted separately from the witness stand that they had lengthy criminal records and were engaged in the drug dealing trade during the time that the state alleges they conspired to kill Todd “T-Rek” Thomas as he stood outside Ernie’s Cafe on Bank Street in New London on Dec. 23, 2006.

Armadore said he had been “convicted of many felonies, from here to Boston, since I was 14.” There were assaults, breaking and entry incidents and domestic violence with the mother of his son. Tyus answered, “Yes,” when his attorney, Christopher Duby, asked him if it was “even safe, in fact, to call you a criminal?” Tyus’ rap sheet lists convictions for weapons, drugs and probation violation.

Both men went on to deny any involvement in the death of Todd Thomas, saying they didn’t even know the 30-year-old victim. They said they drove to Boston on Dec. 23, 2006, picked up some women and took them back to the Bella Notte nightclub in Norwich. They distanced themselves from a gray Malibu thought to be the “getaway car,” saying they were in a black Dodge Intrepid.

Prosecutor David J. Smith laid out the state’s case to the jury during his cross-examination of the two men, advancing the state’s theories despite the defendants’ adamant and sometimes aggressive responses. The prosecution alleges that Tyus and Todd Thomas were feuding over heavy gold chains that Thomas’ brother, John, known as “John John,” had given to Tyus while high on PCP. Thomas allegedly exchanged gunfire with Tyus in a drive-by shooting 20 days before, and Armadore shot Thomas in retaliation.

On the witness stand, Tyus said he didn’t know who had shot him on Willetts Avenue, had never met Todd Thomas and had never spoken to “John John” Thomas about the necklaces, because “John John” was incarcerated at the time. Tyus said he never knew where the necklaces went. The chains, and the alleged murder weapons, a 9 mm handgun, have never been recovered.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Paul J. Narducci said the state’s case is based on circumstantial evidence, which should be given the same weight as direct evidence. He walked the jury through the testimony of each witness and told jurors if they look at the case “through the prism of their common sense,” the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of Tyus and Armadore.

During the trial, a ballistics expert testified that shell casings recovered after the drive-by shooting matched a casing found at the homicide scene. Witnesses say they saw a light-skinned African American — someone who fits Armadore’s description — fleeing to a gray car after the Ernie’s shooting. Tyus’ girlfriend had rented a gray car. Armadore and the victim cannot be eliminated as contributors to DNA recovered from the inside passenger door of the Malibu. A witness said Tyus and a light-skinned man came into the Norwich nightclub after he received a phone call saying that Thomas had been shot. And one of the state’s final witnesses, the mother of Armadore’s son who has been relocated to another state under a witness protection program, said that Armadore broke down the morning after the shooting and told her he shot someone.

Defense attorney John E. Franckling, representing Armadore, argued the state’s version of the facts do not make sense and said there is “boatloads” of reasonable doubt. He noted his client is left-handed and that the DNA was found on the right passenger door of the car. Attorney Christopher Duby, representing Tyus, noted both clients are inches shorter than the victim, who was over 6 feet tall and was shot, the medical examiner testified, from above his head. They picked apart the phone records, saying there is no proof their clients had their phones with them that night, and noted there was no gunshot residue or blood found in the gray rental car.

Judge Arthur C. Hadden was instructing the jury on the law late Wednesday, and the panel was expected to begin deliberating on Thursday morning.

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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