GREENVILLE, PITT COUNTY - Three suspects charged in the murder of a man in Greenville over the weekend made their first court appearances Monday morning. It was Greenville's first homicide of the year.
James Murray, 41, Brandon Maldonado, 18, and Earl Ward, 36, are each charged with murder in the shooting death of 20-year-old Zachary Russian. The victim was found with a single gunshot wound in a car on County Home Road in Greenville Saturday night, police said. He died Sunday morning.
During Ward's court appearance Monday morning, his bond was set at $2 million. In addition, he is forbidden to carry any weapons and must not possess or consume controlled substances. The judge did allow Ward to have a court-appointed attorney. Ward's next court date is scheduled for April 17.
Ward's brother, Kevin Ward, spoke to Newschannel12 after court adjourned.
"He was shot at first and his car was hit and, um, he was just doing what he know to protect himself," said Kevin Ward.
Maldonado's bond was set at $1 million during his court appearance Monday morning. Like Ward, he is forbidden to carry any weapons and must not possess or consume controlled substances. Maldonado's family said they plan to hire their own attorney.
"I feel like my son was taken advantage of by two much older men," said Maldonado's father. "A 41-year-old and a 38-year-old saw an easy patsy, an 18-year-old, as an easy go between."
Murray's case was continued to April 17. He was issued a $500,000 secured bond. Murray was also approved to have a court-appointed lawyer.
"He is not a violent individual. And due to a, I'm going to be honest, a little lack of wisdom on his part, he's just in this situation," said Murray's wife.
Greenville Police said they found shell casings in the parking lot of Rosemont Apartments after 9:16 p.m. Saturday. They said they discovered Russian with a gunshot wound in a car less than a block away on County Home Road.
Investigators did say whether Russian drove the car after being shot, or if someone else drove him.
Greenville Police Chief Aden said the fatal shooting is drug-related and not random.
A man is dead in Pitt County after he was found shot inside a car. According to police, 20-year-old Zachary Russian was found with a single gunshot wound on County Home Road in Greenville. Russian was rushed to the Vidant Medical Center where he died from his injuries Sunday morning.
At 9:16 p.m. Saturday, police went to Rosemont Apartments for reports of shots fired. They found shell casings in the parking lot.
However, police first found Russian in the car less than a block away from the apartments on County Home Road.
Investigators did not confirm whether Russian drove the car after being shot, or if someone else drove.
Police are looking to possibly make another arrest. Witnesses reported seeing a subject leaving the scene of the car accident.
GPD Chief Hassan Aden said this is the first homicide case this year.
"With the help of the community we were able to arrest the three people responsible for this," Chief Aden said.
Three people were arrested in connection with the crime. Brandon Lee Maldonado, 18, Earl Ward, 36, and James Bernard Murray, 41, were all charged with murder. As of Sunday night, they were all in the Pitt County Detention Center without bond. Chief Aden said they did not set a bond due to the suspects' extensive criminal pasts.
"Three violent offenders are now off our streets as a result of diligent detective work and the quick response from all of the officers on-scene," Chief Aden said. "We'd like to reassure the public and the community that this act of violence was not random. All involved parties appear to have been engaging in risky behavior."
Chief Aden said this shooting is drug related and not random. He said it comes back to society and its appetite for illegal narcotics.
"Until this begins to change, you know we really need to look at ourselves and see what we are doing as a society, because we are all part of this," Chief Aden said.
The case is still under investigation.
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