SCHENECTADY -- Tensions flared when the friend of a man killed in an alleged murder-for-hire plot was questioned by the defendant's attorney.
Prosecutors allege that Tarchard Lall, who is on trial for murder in Schenectady County Court, hired two hit men to kill Charles Dembrosky after taking out a $150,00 life insurance policy on him. Dembrosky was shot dead in front of his Bellevue home in November 2016.
A friend of Dembrosky's, Chad Raymond, who also had a life insurance policy that named Lall as the beneficiary, took the witness stand on Monday.
Raymond, a Schenectady resident who said he did some construction work for Lall between 2015 and 2016, was asked several questions by defense attorney Cheryl Coleman about a $250,000 life insurance policy Raymond said Lall suggested he take out, naming Lall as the beneficiary. Raymond said Lall suggested this because he told Raymond he wanted to take care of his burial "if I ever needed one."
Raymond said he was fine with Lall being the beneficiary because Lall was paying for the policy.
Coleman asked several questions about whom Raymond tried to designate as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. At first, the beneficiary was marked down as Raymond’s estate. But at some point, there was an effort to make the woman he was dating at the time as the beneficiary, which Raymond argued was a mistake.
During direct questioning from prosecutor Peter Willis, Raymond said he tried to change the policy to have Lall as the beneficiary, mainly because Lall insisted on it and because Lall was paying for it. All information related to the policy was sent to Lall's home, Raymond testified.
Coleman, though, argued Lall was never mentioned on any of the applications for the life insurance policy.
“You tell me how you think it was that [Raymond’s girlfriend] ended up being the beneficiary on the life insurance policy?” Coleman asked.
“Could have been messed up on [the insurance company’s] behalf,” Raymond said.
Coleman then asked for another reason as to why his girlfriend would be listed on the life insurance policy as the beneficiary.
“Either I messed up or they did,” Raymond said before firing back with. “She wasn’t meant to be the beneficiary. It was Lall.”
This all occurred during the second day of testimony in the murder-for-hire case against Lall, who is accused of hiring hit men to kill Dembrosky and then another hit man to kill a witness.
The trial started on Friday after a jury was seated on Thursday.
Lall, 54, is on trial on first-degree murder charges in the death of Dembrosky, as well as second-degree criminal solicitation for murder charges for his alleged attempt to have a potential witness killed.
If convicted on the murder charge, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Coleman also asked Raymond about a few things he lied about on the application for the policy. It included lying about not doing drugs -- which he admitted during questioning from Willis that he did cocaine -- and lying about smoking.
Raymond admitted to making the lies, but said it was only at Lall’s request.
Willis later brought out a form that was in evidence that showed Raymond had requested to change from having his girlfriend as the beneficiary to Lall. Raymond said it was his signature on the document.
The insurance agent who worked on the life insurance policies covering both Dembrosky and Raymond testified on Monday.
Jim Hicks, a representative of Primerica, described his interactions with Lall and the details of Raymond's life insurance policy, as well as the $150,000 policy on Dembrosky. Hicks said he actually knew Lall through his involvement in the Schenectady Premier Softball Cricket League, which Hick’s said they discussed the possibility of him sponsoring a team.
Hicks said after they put together the life insurance policy for Raymond in January of 2016, he was contacted by Lall to take one out for Dembrosky in April of the same year.
The policy identified Lall and Dembrosky as domestic partners.
Hicks said Dembrosky was present when they filled out the application and agreed to take out the policy, while listing Lall as the beneficiary.
Three months later, Hicks said he was contacted by Lall to check and make sure the policy was still in place. He said Lall checked with him again in early November.
On Nov. 21, two days after Dembrosky was found dead, Hicks said Lall called to inform him about Dembrosky’s death.
The two men met at a car dealership because Lall said he was getting his oil changed, Hicks testified. Hicks told Lall the regulations of the policy require Dembrosky’s next of kin to sign a medical release form in order for Lall to make a claim because Dembrosky died within two years of the policy being taken out.
The only next of kin available was Dembrosky’s brother, Hicks testified, which Lall cautioned him against contacting. That’s because if they did, Lall said, Dembrosky’s brother would suspect Lall had killed him.
“I was shocked,” Hicks said. “We sat there for about a minute or so.”
Hicks said Lall followed up again in December to see if the claim had been processed. Hicks said he told Lall again he couldn’t do so until they received a medical release form from the next of kin.
Hicks said he never received the medical release form.
Coleman noted that Hicks didn't talk to police until several months after they attempted to question him.
Hicks later told Willis it took him “several months” to tell police about Lall's fear of being accused of murder because his office told him to get a lawyer and refer any questions on the policy to the company.
The jury also heard testimony from Schenectady police detective Ryan Maloney. He read a statement given to him by Lall the day Dembrosky was found dead. Lall told detectives he was with Dembrosky the night before after picking him up from a party to drive him home because he had too much to drink.
Maloney also testified about a phone number featuring a 484 area code that was found on the phones belonging to Lall and Dembrosky, both of which police were able to search.
Maloney said Lall gave police permission to search his phone.
The number with the 484 area code had called Dembrosky three times, including one call at 1:22 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2016.
Maloney said when they discovered through Lall’s phone record he also had contact with that number, they went and spoke with him about it. Lall explained to them he wasn’t sure who the number belonged to, but that it could have been a tenant or a prospective tenant.
Maloney later testified police were not able to verify Lall's explanation for his contact with the 484 number.
Lall’s trial follows the convictions of ex-con Joevany Luna and Kyshaan Moore for taking part in the killing of Dembrosky. Moore had driven Luna from Delaware to Schenectady so Luna could kill Dembrosky.
The two both received prison sentences. Luna will serve life in prison without parole. Moore was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors were able to prove their case during the trial by using cellphone tower records, data from license plate readers, street surveillance cameras and wiretaps. The evidence provided a digital record of the crime being planned and executed.
This included details that showed the last three calls that were recorded to Dembrosky’s phone were from a number investigators were eventually able to tie to Luna.
Lall’s trial continues on Tuesday before Judge Matthew Sypniewski.