PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man already serving a life sentence was acquitted of murder Wednesday in the shooting death of an aspiring teacher during an iPod robbery in Philadelphia, stunning the victim's family.
The jury deliberated three hours before finding Marcellus Jones not guilty of all charges, including murder and conspiracy to commit robbery, in the death of 23-year-old Beau Zabel.
"Thank you!" Jones yelled out when the verdict was announced, while Zabel's family fought back tears, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Zabel moved from Austin, Minnesota, to Philadelphia to start work in the public schools a few weeks before he was killed in June 2008 during a street robbery that netted an iPod. Zabel had been walking home from his night shift at a Starbucks store. Police believe Jones followed Zabel from the Starbucks to the spot several blocks away where he was killed.
Jones, 37, testified in his own defense and denied killing Zabel.
Police charged Jones in the South Philadelphia slaying two years ago, after Jones was convicted of killing the suspected getaway driver. Prosecutors had no DNA or other physical evidence linking him to Zabel's slaying, but said he later told relatives that he killed 19-year-old Tyrek Taylor because the alleged accomplice had been talking about Jones "killing the teacher."
In closing arguments, Jones' lawyer attacked the credibility of witnesses who testified about Jones' alleged admissions.
Prosecutors also called two witnesses who testified they heard a "boom," saw Zabel's body on the sidewalk and then watched a man searching around the body. But they could not provide a detailed description of the man.
Zabel was enrolled in a teaching program at Drexel University, where he planned to teach math to inner-city children during the day and take courses at night.
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