Piazza Killings: "A Murder Waiting to Happen"

Suspects testify that the shootings were a mistake saying it was supposed to be a simple robbery

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Navona/Piazza at Schmidt's
    Rian Thal and friend seconds before they were gunned down on the seventh floor. They were ambushed after getting off the elevator.

    It was “a murder waiting to happen” said assistant district attorney Jennifer Selber as she spoke in a packed courtroom about the botched burglary that left Rian Thal and Timothy Gilmore dead back in June.

    In preliminary hearings held Wednesday, a judge heard the chain of events, which led to the murder of the popular party planner and her friend.

    Timothy Gilmore didn't know he was being watched as he made his way to friend Rian Thal's apartment inside the 1050 Building at The Piazza at Schmidt's. Three men joined him as he rode to the 7th floor -- all were silent as they geared up to rob more than $100,000 and 4 kilos of cocaine hiding inside Thal's apartment, said prosecutors.

    Surveillance Video: Suspects and Victims

    [PHI] Surveillance Video: Suspects and Victims
    Here is the raw surveillance video showing how the gunmen got into the complex. It also shows Rian Thal and Timothy Gilmore seconds before they were murdered.

    As the doors to the elevator opened, the trio was ready to pounce, but one got cold feet. So they aborted, returning to the getaway car empty handed. It didn't end there, though. A few hours later, two of the men would be back and the friends would be dead.

    Thal's neighbor Katoya Jones took the witness stand to testify about the events leading up to the murders. Handcuffed and dressed in black, the woman described how she provided the men access to the building before leaving to meet her niece. When Jones returned, she quickly learned the robbery had turned deadly.

    Video Shows Well-Orchestrated Ambush

    [PHI] Video Shows Well-Orchestrated Ambush
    Surveillance video of Rian Thal and Timothy Gilmore moments before the two were murdered.

    Jones testified she went "kind of numb" after learning about the shootings. Sitting across the courtroom from her were Donnell Murchison, Edward Daniels and Antonio Wright -- the men prosecutors say were the shooters caught on surveillance video. Next to them sat the alleged mastermind behind it all, Will Hook.

    In Jones’ testimony, she claims Hook, or as she calls him, “Pooh,” recruited her to let “his man” Donnell Murchinson into the building on June 27. Murchison would then wait inside, let Wright and Daniels in and then head upstairs for the “sweet beat,” according to his written statement to police.

    But it all went awry when a lookout informed the trio Thal and Gilmore, who had earlier left, were on their way up to the apartment. Jones said “Pooh” told her that this is when his team of  “rookies” panicked.
     
    In Murchison’s statement, he explains how the men ambushed Thal and Gilmore from all sides. With a gun to her head, Thal pleaded, “Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! I’ll give you everything you want!”

    Gilmore decided to fight back grabbing Antonio Wright’s gun. Wright, the “young boy,” shot him three or four times -- aiming low and shooting him in the back. “Young boy stopped shooting," Murchinson told police before one last shot was fired leaving Thal dead on the ground.

    None of them claim to know who actually shot her. Forgetting about the drugs and the money, they ran.  As Murchison stepped over Gilmore he told police, “the guy…started to move.”  He then shot Gilmore one more time.
     
    Jones, who told prosecutors that she had hoped to gain $50,000 to $60,000 from the heist, had advised Pooh and his gang that surveillance video wouldn't be an issue saying: “the cameras ain’t about nothing as long as no one gets killed.”

    Langdon Scott, the fifth man involved, backed out of the first robbery attempt telling police he thought they were just going to make a drug deal, not commit burglary. His attorney pleaded with the judge to drop some of his charges since he was not involved in the actual murders. 
     
    Jones previously pled guilty to two counts of murder. The others are being held for arraignment on October 14.