Jailed for a year, ‘All I kept thinking about was my family’
Murder and other charges have been dropped against a man who had been accused of participating in the 2017 killing of a 42-year-old in a robbery gone wrong.
Ledarius Samuel, 20, faced charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and four counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon in the fatal shooting of Felipe Aleman Perez, 42.
The charges were dropped on Friday due to insufficient evidence, according to court documents.
“We are very grateful that the District Attorney’s Office did the right thing in dismissing all charges,” Allyn Sharp, Samuel’s attorney, wrote in an email.
District Attorney Satana Deberry wrote in an email that the charges were dismissed after “a thorough evaluation of the evidence in the case, including eyewitness testimony.”
“It was determined that the State had contradictory evidence and could not prove Mr. Samuel’s participation beyond a reasonable doubt,” Deberry wrote. “This dismissal in no way reflects the State’s position on his other pending charges.”
Samuel spent a year in jail on the murder charges under a high bail, but was able to leave in late January 2018 after Chief Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson unsecured his bond, meaning Samuel was released on a signature. Since that time, Samuel has been arrested twice.
On March 7, 2018, Samuel was arrested on charges of breaking and entering a home, possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor. The charges were all dropped within three weeks. Samuel, his family and his attorney argued he had been targeted after Hudson unsecured his bond.
On Dec. 15 officers found Samuel detained and beaten at a birthday party in which witnesses said he tried to rob them, according to police. Four people were shot at Valley Terrace Apartments on Chapel Hill Road, police said, including one of the people charged in the robbery.
Samuel said in a December interview he was trying to visit relatives at the apartment complex when he was grabbed from behind, beaten and had his hands tied with a rope.
“The situation I am accused of I know I didn’t do,” Samuel said.
Samuel was charged with robbery with a deadly weapon. He said he didn’t know the 17-year-old who was also charged in the robbery.
Samuel initially faced a $1.5 million bail on the robbery charge, but was able to leave the jail after Hudson changed it to a $100,000 unsecured bond on Jan. 15.
After Samuel was released, a group of Latino residents, which included some who attended the birthday party, expressed frustration with Hudson for letting Samuel out and with police for communication with people at the party, The News & Observer reported.
A birthday party witness
Sherelyn Pulido said in an interview this week she was at the birthday party for a family friend that cold December night. All the women and children were inside, and the men were outside in a tent that backed up to the apartment.
Pulido, 18, a student at UNC-Greensboro, said she saw Samuel and another man with a gun enter the tent, and Samuel pointed the gun at the head of the man who the party was for.
“While he had the gun pointed at the guy, someone grabbed (Samuel) from behind and tried to knock him down,” and they struggled, she said.
Two men were shot in the leg by the second man during the struggle with Samuel, and another man was shot near the entrance by the third man, Pulido said.
After hearing arguments in Samuel’s January 2018 bond hearing related to the 2017 murder charge, Hudson cited weak evidence when he made his decision, The News & Observer reported.
During that hearing, prosecutor Jim Dornfried, who has since moved to the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, said Perez’s son Jesus Aguirre was walking home at the Cornwallis Road public housing complex, where he lived. He saw two people getting robbed but continued to his apartment, Dornfried said.
Aguirre’s parents arrived home, and two men tried to rob them in the parking lot. One man, whom Aguirre later identified as Samuel, tried to rob his mother but ran off. The other man fatally shot his father and shot Aguirre in the leg, according to statements in court.
Sharp argued in court that Aguirre initially said there were three men involved, but only one with a gun. Aguirre identified one person, who was not the shooter. That person was never charged. A few days after the shooting, Aguirre went on the Facebook page of the person he identified and identified Samuel.
During a photo lineup, Aguirre identified the shooter who was a filler in the lineup and was in custody at the time of the shooting, Sharp said.
Perez’s daughter said the person who robbed her mother was a short black male, and so did the two people who Aguirre saw robbed as he walked home, Sharp said.
Meanwhile, surveillance footage shows Samuel picking up his mother at Sam’s Club before the shooting, and entering Walmart after the shooting, Sharp said.
Dornfried said the Sam’s Club video wasn’t very clear and the person in it couldn’t be identified.
Hudson said the jury would have to decide.
“You both agree there is no physical evidence here. You have cross racial ID, which anecdotally, is the worst kind of identification you can have,” Hudson said.