Camden County Prosecutor Warren W. Faulk a New York City man was found guilty of Murder and multiple other offenses in the 2010 gang-related killing of a Mount Holly man and a Cinnaminson teenager.
A jury found Peter Leonce, M/21, of the 3300 block of 9th Street in Astoria, NY, guilty today of Murder, Aggravated Manslaughter and eight other offenses for his role in killing Michael Hawkins and Muriah Huff at a home on the 500 block of Berkley Street in Camden on February 22, 2010. The jury deliberated for approximately two days.
Hawkins, 23, was beaten, gagged and bound, and placed in a bedroom closet. After additional gang members arrived at the Berkley Street home, he was shot, stabbed and beaten again. Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah presented evidence during seven days of testimony that Leonce was one of the initiators of the assault on Hawkins, including beating the victim with a baseball bat. Hawkins was killed due to disagreements with Leonce and others, who were members of the Bloods street gang. Hawkins had raised the ire of the gang members because of his involvement with a rival gang, the Crips, and through perceived minor offenses. One of the catalysts for the assault and killing was Bloods’ members belief that Hawkins had stolen from them a bottle of liquor.
Huff, 18, of Cinnaminson, was with Hawkins at the Berkley Street home. She was murdered after Hawkins’ killers worried about her being a witness to Hawkins’ death. Leonce was found guilty of participating in her killing as well, including beating her with a chair.
Leonce was found guilty of participating in the effort to hide the crime by cleaning the Berkley Street home of blood, disposing of carpeting and the victims’ clothes and burying the two victims in the home’s back yard.
The full verdict against Leonce is as follows:
In Hawkins killing, Leonce is guilty of: Murder, Felony Murder, Kidnapping, Conspiracy to Commit Murder and Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping.
In Huff’s killing, Leonce is guilty of: Aggravated Manslaughter, Criminal Restraint and Conspiracy to Commit Murder.
He was also found guilty of Hindering Apprehension and Hindering His Own Apprehension.
Sentencing is scheduled for September 20 before Superior Court Judge Michael Kassel. Leonce could be sentenced to a life term of incarceration on the murder charge alone.
Leonce is the last defendant in this case to be tried. Nine others have either been convicted or pleaded guilty.
Prosecutor Faulk credited the conviction to the efforts Assistant Prosecutor Shah, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office investigative staff Captain Ron Moten, Sergeant Patricia Taulane, Detective Bill Rumell and Steve Settles, and Camden County Police personnel Sgt. Janelle Simpson and Patrolman Randy Smith. They negotiated a complicated and tragic case with an unprecedented 10 defendants expertly, ensuring every defendant faced a measure of justice.