SCHENECTADY -- Tarchand Lall hired hit men to come to Schenectady and kill Charles Dembrosky two years ago, a jury found Wednesday.
The jury convicted Lall of first-degree murder and life settlement fraud, finding that he wanted Dembrosky dead for $150,000 in life insurance proceeds.
The same jury acquitted Lall on related allegations that he tried to have a potential witness in the case killed, also for insurance money.
Lall being walked out in handcuffs after the verdict pic.twitter.com/WX9kB2XXBQ— Andrew Beam (@beam_gazette) December 12, 2018
The conviction on the first-degree murder count means Lall now faces up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He is due to be sentenced in February.
Peter Willis, who prosecuted the case with Jennifer Assini, called Lall's actions "heinous" and expressed disbelief he would kill someone he considered a friend.
"It's really hard to think that another person could do that to someone," Willis said.
Willis was pleased with the jury's decision. He said they took the time to look at the evidence and were able to come to the same conclusion the county District Attorney's Office did.
"There is some satisfaction in that," Willis said.
Lall's attorney, Cheryl Coleman, said they knew that the prosecution had a strong case. But she said Lall had serious health problems that made him feel he needed to fight for his life because he was facing the possibility of life in prison.
She said there were still issues in the trial she feels that could be challenged, including allowing the second degree criminal solicitation charge to be included in the trial, the only one he was acquitted of. She said the charge essentially assured he would be convicted on the murder charge.
Still, Coleman said she left Lall with some words of encouragement.
"I just got done telling him to try to stay strong and to remember that a verdict isn't the end of the criminal case," Coleman said. "And that he has many legal options based on some of the rulings in this case that happened before he went to trial."
Two Delaware men, Joevany Luna and Kyshaan Moore, were convicted earlier of being the hit men in the case, Luna the shooter and Moore the driver.
Lall has been found guilty on first-degree murder— Andrew Beam (@beam_gazette) December 12, 2018
Luna is serving a life sentence for killing Dembrosky, and Moore is serving a 25-years-to-life sentence for driving Luna to Schenectady from Delaware to commit the murder.
Willis, in his closing statement Tuesday, said all of the presented evidence, much of it in the form of records produced by cellphones and other technology, proved Lall hired the men to kill Dembrosky, and that he did it for money. Willis said Dembrosky had a $150,000 life insurance policy, on which Lall was named as a beneficiary.
- Closing statements offered in Schenectady murder-for-hire trial, Dec. 11, 2018
- Maximum sentences for Schenectady contract killing, July 30, 2018
- Guilty verdicts in Schenectady murder-for-hire case, May 10, 2018
The answer to who was responsible for the murder, Willis said, was found inside Dembrosky's pocket: his cellphone. Police found evidence of a call from a phone number with a 484 area code on Dembrosky’s phone. That number called Dembrosky three times before he was found dead, and police later found the same number in Lall’s phone records, with one of the calls being made just after Dembroksy died.
Other evidence included the use of cellphone tower data, license plate readers and video surveillance cameras throughout the city. It all created a digital record that showed how the crime was planned and executed.
Willis said it is important for police to not only be familiar with the sort of technology, but also to use them to find evidence in criminal cases. He said that sort of evidence helped them be confident in their case.
"You can't discount how valuable that type of information is," Willis said after the trial. "The surveillance cameras in the city, which, if we didn't have those, we would have had a much harder time proving the connection here in the city."
Coleman, argued that the prosecution's case left too much reasonable doubt to convict, calling the case “the Taj Mahal on a Play-Doh foundation.”