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Murder defendant attacked in Schenectady court

Murder defendant attacked in Schenectady court

A distraught father charged at the man accused of murdering his daughter before being knocked down b
Murder defendant attacked in Schenectady court
Jamell Modest, center, was guarded heavily by Schenectady County sheriff's deputies while being placed into a waiting van for transport to the Schenectady County jail after his arraignment in December.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
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A distraught father charged at the man accused of murdering his daughter before being knocked down by court officers and pepper-sprayed Monday morning.

The alleged killer, Jamell Modest, 46, was uninjured in the scuffle and didn’t appear fazed.

He is accused of shooting the mother of four at State and Elder streets Saturday afternoon. The victim, Markia Harris, 30, fell beside an SUV in which her youngest child, a 9-month-old infant, was sitting.

Modest faces one count each of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment — the latter charge for allegedly opening fire near the baby — and is being held without bail.

He was formally arraigned Monday morning in Schenectady City Court.

The courtroom itself was packed with people, both members of the victim’s family and those there for many unrelated court appearances.

After Modest’s case was called, he was led into court to appear before Judge Guido Loyola. Modest looked around at the gallery as he walked in, and immediately after that the victim’s father rushed at him. Marcus Harris, 50, nearly managed to reach Modest before court officers took him to the floor and pepper-sprayed him.

One witness in the courtroom with a different point of view than a Gazette reporter said it appeared the father actually did get one hand on Modest before court officers subdued him.

Marcus Harris faces a total of four misdemeanors related to the incident. He was arraigned later and released without having to post bail.

The incident was the second involving a distraught relative of the dead woman in as many days. On Sunday, her uncle, 40-year-old Donald Dunkel, was accused of calling in a false report to police and throwing a bottle at a responding police car.

Court paperwork in that case indicated Dunkel “was intoxicated and upset over the recent murder of a family member and fabricated this report with intent to get arrested.”

Dunkel’s son, D.C. Dunkel, a first cousin to Markia Harris, said later Monday that the family is obviously hurting.

“Everybody’s hurt, everybody’s in pain,” he said. “It’s not something that everybody’s going to get over. It’s not something where we can say everybody’s doing good, because we’re not. It hurts.”

Donald Dunkel faces a felony criminal mischief count related to the dollar amount of damage caused to the police car, as well as misdemeanors.

Modest was in court Monday to be formally arraigned on the murder charge. The proceedings were halted as a result of the scuffle, then completed when court reopened.

No plea was taken and no bail was set.

The victim Modest is accused of killing was described Monday as a motivated woman and a good mother. The baby who was with her when she was killed was one of her four children, family members said.

Markia Harris, D.C. Dunkel said, “was just a warm spirit,” a woman who would always smile and was never down.

He recalled talking with her recently about her wanting to work with at-risk youth.

“It’s just unbelievable,” he said.

Facebook pages belonging to the victim and the man accused of killing her paint a picture of optimism and anger, respectively, before the shooting.

On Harris’ Facebook page, the last publicly visible post was Nov. 4. That day, an optimistic Harris wrote of being enrolled in school and having schedules with three jobs, “now to consecrate myself and see everything through!”

On Modest’s Facebook page, there were nine separate posts from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5 relating to a woman who apparently was Harris.

In the first post, Modest referred to his “queen,” apologizing to her for an unnamed incident. He also wrote that “when your hearts broken u do things outside the norm.”

“i wholeheartly apology to my queen for the wrong ive done i pray god helps me win back the one i love,” that post concludes.

On Dec. 3 came the seventh post, in which he wrote that he’s “tried to reach her at all levels.”

That post concluded with Modest writing “u will see the old me snake is in full war mode like biggie ready to die.” The punctuation errors appeared to make the intent of that line unclear.

The eighth post was more apologetic, and the final post was a brief mention of his pain.

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