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Schenectady murder-for-hire case goes to jury

Schenectady murder-for-hire case goes to jury

Evidence from technology form backbone of prosecution's case against three accused men.
Schenectady murder-for-hire case goes to jury
Joevany Luna, right, in court Aug. 29, 2017.
Photographer: Steve Cook

SCHENECTADY -- Cellphone tower evidence, license plate reader data, street surveillance cameras and wire taps all point to three men for the murder of Charles Dembrosky, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.

Joevany Luna was driven from Delaware to Schenectady by fellow Delaware resident Kyshaan Moore, and Schenectady resident Tarchand Lall paid Luna for the killing, prosecutor Peter Willis told a jury in closing arguments of Luna and Moore's first-degree murder trial.

"There is no other reasonable view of this evidence than both of these men are guilty of murder in the first degree," Willis told the jury.

Willis highlighted his closing with a video aid for the jury, which showed maps, cellphone calls and the images captured by the license plate readers. 

Over the course of several minutes, the video showed the communication towers Luna and Moore's cellphones used as they traveled to Schenectady that night. Though neither man had any connection to the city, they drove first to Lall's house in Mont Pleasant and then to Bellevue, where Dembrosky lived.

Willis also played audio from police wiretaps and referenced 67 calls between the phone tied to Luna, 43, in Delaware and Lall, 53, in Schenectady in the days leading up to the shooting and the $10,000 Lall withdrew as payment for the murder.

The cellphone associated with Luna also was used to place calls to Dembrosky three times right before he was shot -- the only three times that cellphone ever called Dembrosky. 

All three men are accused of conspiring to kill Dembrosky early on the morning of Nov. 19, 2016, outside Dembrosky's 2436 Campbell Ave. residence in Schenectady. The alleged motive was to collect on a life insurance policy Lall had taken out on Dembrosky.

Prosecutors have said Lall faced significant personal financial problems. Dembrosky had done work for Lall.

Willis argued that Lall met Luna through a mutual acquaintance and hired him for the murder.

Lall is to be tried separately later.

The jury heard closing arguments from all three attorneys Wednesday. Deliberations were to continue Thursday.

Luna's attorney Mark Juda argued the technical evidence isn't as clear as prosecutors say it is. The phone records only provide information about phones; they don't provide details about who was in possession of those phones. Also, surveillance images of the car prosecutors say carried the killer don't show who's inside, Juda argued.

"Nothing from those videos establishes that Joevany Luna was in that car -- absolutely nothing," Juda argued.

There's not even a connection between Luna and the car, Juda said. Prosecutors claimed the car belonged to Moore's girlfriend.

Juda also attacked testimony from Luna's girlfriend that tied Luna to the crime, saying she had reasons to lie. 

Moore's attorney, Michael Mansion, argued nothing ties his client to the crime. Lall's communication was completely with the phone associated with Luna, not Moore, Mansion said.

Data from the phone associated with Moore was also not evident in a "dry run" to Schenectady weeks before the crime, Mansion noted.

Mansion also suggested Moore didn't know what Luna was going to do -- that he was along for the ride. He likened the case to a cake, for which the essential ingredients of a conviction -- the elements of the crime -- aren't there.

Willis, speaking after the defense attorneys, countered that the cake ingredients were all there: Money - Lall. A gun - Luna. And a car - Moore.

"When those three ingredients came together the night of Nov. 18-19, 2016, Charles Dembrosky ended up dead, and the three people that brought those ingredients to the table are the ones responsible for Charles Dembrosky's murder."

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