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Man Guilty of Two First-Degree Murders in Bristol Twp. Shootings

August 2, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Antonetta Stancu, 215.348.6340, astancu@buckscounty.org

Eric Dillard Tyrone Moss Joshua Johnson 
       Eric Dillard                       Tyrone Moss             Joshua Johnson

A Bucks County judge this afternoon convicted Eric Lamar Dillard, 28, of two counts of first-degree murder in the 2014 shooting deaths of two men during a drug-related home invasion robbery in Bristol Township.

The Commonwealth is seeking the death penalty.

Common Pleas Court Judge Rea B. Boylan, who heard the case without a jury, pronounced the verdict after two days of evidence and closing arguments this morning. Boylan will preside without a jury over the penalty phase of the proceedings, scheduled to begin on Friday.

Dillard was found guilty of murdering Tyrone Moss, 31, and Joshua Johnson, 29, during a robbery at Johnson's home in the 900 block of Winder Drive. Both victims were found bound and shot in the head.

A third victim, Lamel Duffy, 27, was shot in the head and back but survived. Dillard was convicted of attempted murder for Duffy's shooting, as well as aggravated assault, multiple counts of robbery, burglary, possession of an instrument of crime, and corresponding conspiracy counts. 

Dillard was one of three men who conspired to rob Johnson on July 7, 2014, believing that Johnson had substantial marijuana and as much as $30,000 cash at his home, prosecutors alleged. 

Dillard rode from Philadelphia to Johnson's house with Anthony King Jr., a close friend, and Demetrius Baker, an acquaintance of King's. 

"I heard the money amount and I was being greedy," Baker, who is awaiting trial, testified on Monday. Baker said he had received no promises of leniency in return for his testimony, saying he simply wanted "to be at peace with myself." 

Baker testified that King, whom the victims knew, entered Johnson's house around midnight to scout out the number of people inside. At King's signal, Baker said, he and Dillard burst into the home a few minutes later with their faces concealed and Dillard brandishing a semiautomatic handgun.

The men ordered Moss and Duffy to the floor, and Johnson, who was partially paralyzed, was pulled from his wheelchair by Baker, who said he found a revolver on the wheelchair seat. Dillard took the revolver and handed the semiautomatic gun to King, Baker said. 

The victims were forced to lie face-down on the floor while the robbers bound their hands with zip ties and video-game power cords. Baker said he searched the house and found about $3,000 cash and a modest amount of marijuana. King, he said, began stuffing other belongings from the house into a black bag. 

After Baker and King loaded the bag, drugs and money into the trunk of Baker's car, King returned to the house while Baker started his engine and waited. Less than a minute later, Baker testified, "I heard gunshots. I thought, ‘what was that?’"

According to Deputy District Attorney Antonetta Stancu, King had decided to kill the victims because they could identify him. "One of [the robbers] says, `It's over. Kill,'" Stancu told Boylan in her closing argument, quoting one of the Commonwealth’s witnesses.

King executed Moss and Johnson with single shots to the head from the semiautomatic, Stancu said. "Their lives ended after what can only have seemed an eternity" of lying on the floor, waiting, she said. "An eternity that lasted, by the clock, 15 minutes.”

"When they could have and should have spared lives, they didn't," Stancu said of King and Dillard. "The defendant and [King] turned a robbery into a massacre." 

Duffy was shot once in the head with the semiautomatic, Stancu said, and Dillard shot him once in the back with the revolver before the robbers fled.

Duffy survived, freed himself after the robbers left, and collapsed on the front porch of a next-door neighbor, who called 911.

As he drove away, Baker recalled, King and Dillard celebrated.

"They were hyped, they were happy, they were laughing," Stancu told Boylan. "They had just made a killing, literally."

Investigators quickly developed King as a suspect, but on Aug. 28, 2014, he too was murdered – shot to death in Philadelphia. After that, "the investigation was basically floundering," Bucks County Detective David Hanks testified.

More than a year passed before a state prisoner wrote a letter to authorities, saying that Dillard had told him details of the murders while both of them were imprisoned for unrelated crimes in 2015 at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford.

The inmate was able to tell investigators many details of the crime that had not been released to the public, Stancu said, including the type of weapon used in the killings and the means by which the victims were bound.

The inmate's information eventually enabled investigators to interview and arrest Baker in January 2016, and Dillard shortly afterward. An analysis of cell phone records confirmed the whereabouts of the three suspects on the night of the murders, and ballistics tests linked the semiautomatic handgun – which King had left with a friend after the shootings – to the rounds that had killed Moss and Johnson.

Defense attorney Craig Penglase attacked the credibility of the inmate's testimony, arguing that his account didn't square with some details in Baker's testimony. "Either (the informant) is wrong, or Mr. Baker is a liar," Penglase argued.

Even if Boylan determined that Dillard was present during the robbery, Penglase said, the evidence showed that King fired the fatal shots. If Dillard intended to harm anybody, he said, it was Duffy, the victim who wound up surviving.

King "robbed a house of a victim he knew, and he didn't wear a mask. [King] had a reason to kill. He had a motive to kill everybody in that house....If he didn't kill them, they would have been able to identify him," Penglase said.

Having fired none of the fatal shots, Penglase said, Dillard should be convicted of nothing more than third-degree murder.

Stancu responded by submitting case law in which defendants had been found guilty of first-degree murder despite not having been proven to have fired the fatal shots. 

Penglase also questioned the absence of Duffy, the surviving victim, from the trial. Detectives testified that they went to great lengths to try to locate Duffy, but that they were unsuccessful, leading to the issuance of a warrant.

In an odd twist, Duffy was located after Boylan had begun her deliberations, when he showed up for an unrelated criminal matter in Montgomery County and was taken into custody on the warrant.

Penglase's co-counsel, Niels Eriksen, asked that Boylan delay the start of the penalty phase until Friday, so that he could have time to interview Duffy beforehand. 

Stancu called the verdict “just and fair,” and vowed to “continue to fight to bring justice to these victims” at the penalty hearing. She also commended “the amazing and dedicated work of our talented detectives and the Bristol Township police in solving this challenging case and bringing peace to the victims’ families.”

The case was investigated by the Bucks County Detectives and the Bristol Township Police Department, and prosecuted by Stancu and Deputy District Attorney Kristin M. McElroy.

Approved for release by Christopher W. Rees, Deputy District Attorney.

Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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