A Chesterfield County judge on Tuesday dismissed all charges against a Richmond man accused of fatally shooting two men at a 2016 Labor Day weekend “mansion party” in Chesdin Landing attended by hundreds of people.
After a two-day trial, Chesterfield Circuit Judge T.J. Hauler granted a defense motion to strike the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt against Djion C. Bowles, 22. He faced two counts each of second-degree murder and felony use of a firearm, and one count of maliciously shooting at an occupied dwelling in the Sept. 4, 2016, shooting deaths of Marc Starkes, 24, of Amelia County, and Duval Turner Jr., 22, of Richmond.
Bowles was the last of three defendants still charged in the case to be tried, and the first to be found not guilty.
Bowles “has been on house arrest for almost two years now, so he just has this huge sense of relief,” attorney Ali Amirshahi, who defended Bowles along with attorney Amy Austin, said after the trial.
In January, prosecutors Ken Nickels and Barbara Cooke won a conviction against the first defendant to be tried when a jury found Devin D. Taylor, 22, guilty of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, two firearm counts and shooting into an occupied dwelling in the deaths of Starkes and Turner. He later was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.
Then in March, Kendric R. Hill, 21, pleaded guilty to murder, voluntary manslaughter and one firearm count and was sentenced to serve 16 years as part of a plea agreement.
Police originally charged eight young men in the killings. But for various reasons, prosecutors withdrew all charges against five of the defendants .
Prosecutors established through testimony by a state firearms expert that at least 12 different firearms, most of them 9 mm guns, were fired at or around the party house in the 15000 block of Chesdin Green Way, based on her analysis of the 90 recovered shell casings. Other weapons fired included .40-caliber and .45-caliber semiautomatics.
Starkes was killed by a 9 mm round, while Turner died from a .40-caliber bullet.
Prosecutors have said they believe several shooters fired at the house, striking the victims, after gunfire suddenly erupted outside , and several firearms recovered from the defendants matched cartridge casings recovered at the scene. But none of the guns sent to the state lab for testing could be positively matched to the slugs found in the victims.
“The ballistics in the case ... they couldn’t determine what gun fired the bullets that hit the two victims, so that was a problem with the case,” Amirshahi said. “They had no way of establishing who killed either person.”
A defense witness, Mackenzie Crow, testified that she saw Bowles at the party looking at his cellphone, and when the shots rang out, observed him run away from the house. She said she didn’t see him with a gun, Amirshahi said.
However, Bokeem Grant, a witness for the prosecution, testified that he saw Bowles shooting at the party house, “but where he said our guy was shooting didn’t match up with the cartridge casings,” Amirshahi said. “He said [Bowles] was shooting a bunch.”
“There was one cartridge casing that came from the gun that [police] recovered from our [client’s] house — not a bunch,” Amirshahi said. “And Grant didn’t come across very good [as a witness], and that’s what Judge Hauler said.”
The killings garnered considerable attention during the 2016 Labor Day weekend and beyond because of the unusual circumstances. An estimated 300 young people from across the region had converged on the upscale house — which at the time was under construction — after the event was broadcast on social media.