Fairfield Township

First Murder Charges Filed in NJ House Party Mass Shooting

Zedekiah Holmes is charged with killing 25-year-old Asia Hester and 30-year-old Kevin Elliott during the May 22 shooting at a house on the 1000 block of East Commerce Street in Fairfield Township.

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A man has been arrested and charged with murdering two people at a New Jersey house party that also left his own sister dead and 11 others wounded in May.

Zedekiah Holmes, 21, is charged with killing 25-year-old Asia Hester and 30-year-old Kevin Elliott during the May 22 shooting at a house on the 1000 block of East Commerce Street in Fairfield Township. Holmes’ 19-year-old sister, Braylin, also died in the shooting, but no one has been charged with her death.

Holmes has also been charged with four counts of attempted murder and multiple counts of possession of a firearm for unlawful purposes. Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said Holmes was at the party in proximity to “numerous” shell casings that were fired from a handgun during a prior shooting on South Burlington Road.

Holmes is under arrest for the South Burlington Road Shooting, with prosecutors set to further request that he remain detained for the Fairfield Township shooting, Webb-McRae said. 

Webb-McRae said the party was attended by “hundreds” of people, who were left scattering to safety when gunfire rang out. She added that the gunfire came from six separate guns.

Webb-McRae on Thursday also announced attempted murder charges against 36-year-old Kevin Dawkins, who she said came out of the house and fired at and above the crowd of people after the initial shooting had ended. He is also charged with various gun crimes.

Kevin Dawkins is the half-brother of 30-year-old Darrell Dawkins, who prosecutors say was hosting the party. Darrell Dawkins was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after police discovered a handgun in his car, Webb-McRae said, adding that the gun was not fired during the party.

Prosecutors also charged Larry McCrae with two counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a handgun for two firearms found in his car. Webb-McRae said those guns were also not fired.

In addition, she also announced charges against Arthur Armstead, who allegedly went to his mother’s Fairfield Township house to hide out following the shooting. Armstead, 28, is charged with hindering his own apprehension, obstruction and tampering with evidence, though Webb-McRae did not say why police were after him in the first place.

She added that after staying with his mom, someone drove Armstead to Wilmington, Delaware, where he hid with a girlfriend as his mother made plans to take him to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and eventually Atlanta, Georgia, Webb-McRae said.

After a stay in Wilmington, Armstead made his way to Atlantic City and hid with another girlfriend before turning himself in to state police for an outstanding warrant on an unrelated gun charge, the prosecutor said.

Armstead's mother, his girlfriends and the woman who drove him to Wilmington have been charged with various counts of obstruction and hindering apprehension.

The investigation remains active, and Web-McRae implored more people to come forward and contact the New Jersey State Police with information.

“Forensic evidence has taken us this far. However, we know that there are unaccounted guns which were discharged that day and that there were shooters that have not been held to account for their actions," she said.

The shooting shook up the community on an evening when many people had gathered to enjoy the nice weather.

Melissa Helmbrecht, who works for Hopeloft, an advocacy group for at-risk young people in nearby Bridgeton, said at the time that several youths in the group were at the party.

“It was hundreds of people, our neighbors, who were just getting together because it was the first really warm, nice night. There were a lot of parties and get-togethers throughout the community, and this was probably the biggest," Helmbrecht said.

John Fuqua told NBC10 his family members were at the party and his nephew had to run for his life as gunshots rang out from the woods.

“My nephew said he was having a good time and next thing all he heard was shooting and he was running for his life. He got on the ground, he had to crawl. He stepped over a dead body," he said.

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