WILKES-BARRE – Raymond Drexler testified Wednesday he was the unwitting getaway driver for homicide suspect Shawn Hamilton.
Drexler testified he did not know he was driving away from a shooting that later turned deadly.
Hamilton, 19, appeared Wednesday for his preliminary hearing before District Judge Martin Kane on charges that he fatally shot his cousin, Kenyatta Hughston, in the middle of Jay Street on July 6.
Hughston, 22, died in Mercy Suburban Hospital in Montgomery County on Oct. 10. An autopsy showed Hughston died from two gunshot wounds to his head.
After 90 minutes of testimony, Kane forwarded an open count of criminal homicide against Hamilton to Luzerne County Court.
Separately, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Hamilton if he is convicted in the deadly shootings of three people inside a Plymouth apartment during an alleged drug exchange of heroin and marijuana on July 7.
Drexler, of Wilkes-Barre, said he met Hamilton on July 4 through a mutual friend. He said he helped Hamilton move belongings into a Nanticoke apartment on Ridge Street and drove him to pick up a misplaced cellphone on July 5.
Drexler said he helped Hamilton because he was getting free heroin.
On July 6, while driving Hamilton to used car lots, Drexler said Hamilton told him he needed to meet a friend. Drexler said he was told to park on Scott Street, where he waited for Hamilton to return.
When Hamilton rushed back to the car, Drexler said, he yelled out, Let's get out of here.
Hamilton was holding a black automatic handgun he placed under his sweatshirt as they drove away, Drexler said.
Upon questioning by Hamilton's attorney, Allyson Kacmarski, Drexler said he received favorable treatment by prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation. He said he was recently arrested by West Hazleton police for an unspecified incident but has not been charged.
Drexler said he called police after learning about the Plymouth deadly shooting. I was fearing my life and my family's life after hearing about the Plymouth thing, he said.
At about the same time Drexler drove Hamilton away from Scott Street, officer Richard Harding said he responded to a shooting on Jay Street. A witness reported hearing gunfire and a black male running toward Scott Street, Harding said.
State police Cpl. Steve Turinski testified that while he was investigating a triple homicide on First Street in Plymouth on July 7, investigators searched Hamilton's Nanticoke apartment.
Bloody sneakers and a handgun found inside the apartment, Turinski testified, were linked to the shootings on Jay Street and in the Plymouth apartment where Lisa Abaunza, 15, Nicholas Maldonado, 17, and Bradley Swartwood, 21, were killed, and Danny Maldonado, 19, was critically injured.