MEDIA COURTHOUSE >> Two Chester men wanted in the 2017 shooting death of 28-year-old Shaquan Cruz-Chappell and captured in Maryland earlier this month were returned to Delaware County Wednesday to face first-degree murder and related charges, authorities said.

Vernon Jones, 19, of the 2800 block of West Sixth Street, and Leroy Spence Jr., 20, of the 1300 block of Tilghman Street, are charged with first- and third-degree murder, criminal homicide, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of instruments of crime, and criminal conspiracy, Delaware County District Attorney Katayoun Copeland and Chester Police Commissioner Otis Blair announced in a joint release Thursday.

Jones and Spence were arrested Aug. 1 by U.S. Marshals at a residence in Baltimore, Md., city authorities said. No additional details were immediately available.

“The defendants in this case ruthlessly murdered the victim, Shaquan Cruz-Chappell, in broad daylight on a summer evening,” Copeland said in the release. “As the result of surveillance video and assistance from the community, we were able to apprehend those responsible for this senseless murder.”

Copeland lauded the efforts of city Detective Rhaheem Blanden and county Detective Vincent Ficchi who led the investigation, as well as the U.S. Marshals who arrested the elusive pair on charges stemming from the 2017 homicide.

It was shortly after 7 p.m. on July 21, 2017, that Chester police were dispatched to West Ninth Street and Highland Avenue in the city’s West End, for a report of a shooting. Arriving officers found Cruz-Chappell in the street, suffering from several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

As part of the investigation, detectives obtained video surveillance that showed a light blue Buick stopping at the corner of Seventh Street and Highland Avenue, and three males exiting the vehicle.

Cruz-Chappell, who was on his bicycle, was pedaling south on Grace Street onto Seventh Street when the three males began shooting at him. The three males then fled on foot, heading toward the 3000 block of West Sixth Street where that same light blue Buick was traveling west on West Sixth Street – the driver of which was apparently looking for his three passengers, according to the District Attorney’s office. Another video captured the same males subsequently entering a residence on West Sixth Street, while the light blue Buick was parked just east of the same residence.

Two alleged accomplices who were already in custody on first-degree murder and related offenses are 17-year-old Brazir Smith, who was charged as an adult, and 19-year-old Tamir Friend. A reward in an amount of up to $2,000 was being offered for information leading to the arrests of Jones and Spence.

All four defendants are being held without bail.

Cruz-Chappell was one of 29 homicide victims in Chester in 2017.

— ROSE QUINN

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