A Stanislaus County jury is mulling over the case of a senseless shooting that claimed the life of a Turlock man in 2016.
On Friday, the jury was given the case to determine if Devenae Price of Ceres and Kevin Barnes of Modesto were responsible for the death of Falane Jones on April 23, 2016. Price is accused of first-degree murder, with the enhancements of being a felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm in the course of committing a crime. Barnes is facing a charge of being an accessory after the fact.
Jones was with his uncle at the Villas Parkside Apartments at 381 W. Hawkeye Avenue on the night of April 23. Shortly before 10 p.m., the pair where in the parking lot of the apartment complex when a black car pulled in and the driver opened fire at Jones.
Jones was struck four times in the face, chest and neck. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries.
Jones was a father to a young girl and worked at a Tracy warehouse. His last Facebook post, added just a few hours before his death, talked about how much he loved his mother and father.
Turlock Police investigators were able to obtain witness statements that provided them with a description of the vehicle and the suspects. A search of the area was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, but the suspects were not located until a few days later in Alameda County.
An Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy was attempting to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation when the driver, later identified as Price, sped away. The vehicle pursuit came to an end when Price crashed the Lexus into a home and he and the three passengers ran from the scene.
A perimeter was established in the San Leandro neighborhood and Price, along with Kelley Trezvant of Modesto and Deandranae Campbell of Livingston were taken into custody. The third passenger was not located at that time.
It was after the arrests that information began to develop about the homicide, leading the sheriff’s department to contact Turlock Police Department investigators.
Two spent shell casings — a brass one and a silver were found in the cowl area of the Lexus, referring to the space between the hood and the windshield. The shell casings matched two other shell casings recovered at the Turlock scene, according to court records.
Trezvant and Campbell were initially charged with being accessories after the fact, but the charges were later dismissed.
Barnes was apprehended May 1, 2016 when he was stopped by a San Francisco police officer for an unrelated matter. Barnes initially provided that agency with a false name, but during the course of their investigation, they determined Barnes was a wanted person by the Turlock Police Department.
Barnes admitted that he had been dropped off at the apartment complex just prior to the shooting. He said he was entering the apartment of his girlfriend when he heard the shots and got down on the ground. A short time later he was in the apartment when Jones’ uncle came in and said his nephew had just been shot. According to the testimony, Barnes at one point yelled out that he didn’t do it that it was Nate.
There has been an ongoing debate as to whether he said Nate or Nae, which the prosecution pointed out is a shortened version of Devenae.
While Price was in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail authorities intercepted a letter in which he instructs his mother to tell his friends how to answer certain questions when investigators came around. Specifically, he states that he and Barnes will say the same story about Nate and that his friends should say they never met a man named Nate in person and only talked to him on the phone. Both Price and Barnes have pointed to Nate, a Crip weed dealer from Stockton, as the real killer. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar told the jury Nate is a made-up person that the two have tried to pin the crime on.
“We didn’t leave our common sense when we came into the court,” Mangar told the jury.
The prosecution said Price and Barnes had shown a “consciousness of guilt” by getting rid of the gun, turning off their cell phones, and fleeing to the Bay Area.
“The evidence clearly shows Mr. price committed this murder and Mr. Barnes acted as his accessory,” Mangar said.
Defense attorney Robert Winston, who is representing Price, asked the jury to be excused from the courtroom for a moment prior to starting his closing argument. Out of the presence of the jury, Winston told the court that Price wanted him to include in his closing argument that Price was the victim of a “grand conspiracy” by law enforcement to set him up for a crime he didn’t commit.
Winston told Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira that he was highly against the idea of putting this notion to the jury at the last minute and described it as a “destructive argument.”
“Frankly, I’ll sound like an idiot doing it,” Winston said.
Despite his attorney thinking it was not in his best interest, Price was adamant that the theory be included in the closing argument.
“That’s what I want, but he’s going to do it right,” Price told the judge.
In the closing argument, Winston told the jury that the evidence against Price was circumstantial and the witnesses were unreliable. He pointed to a white PT Cruiser seen leaving the area in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“Maybe they had just done something that they didn’t want to stick around and face the consequences,” Winston said.
As instructed by his client, Winston included the notion of a “grand conspiracy” against his client, by telling the jury that the shell casings were taken by Turlock Police Department investigators and given to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department to plant on Price’s vehicle. He also said Price was the only one given a gunshot residue test, and not the two women arrested with him. Winston said this was because the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department had already been told who investigators wanted to blame the fatal shooting on.
“They cooperated with the charade,” Winston said. He then reminded the jury that it was not the defense’s job “to prove this theory.”
Barnes defense attorney, Christopher Hudelson, had a more traditional approach to his closing argument. He said Barnes has been consistent in saying Nate was responsible for the shooting and only fled the area because he had a warrant out for his arrest.
Barnes is facing attempted murder charges in another case for a shooting that happened in Empire in 2016.