By Christopher Sheldon
A high-ranking member of a Bloods street gang has been found guilty of murder, attempted murder, robbery and racketeering in connection with a 2006 Long Branch homicide.
Carl Holdren, a/k/a “Killa”, 24, of Lakewood, and a “lieutenant” in the Sex, Money, Murder set of the Bloods street gang, was found guilty following a six-week trial in the courtroom of Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci, Jr., J.S.C on Aug. 27 according to Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
“Violence is not an acceptable part of our community and these street gangs are not going to get away with murder," Gramiccioni said. "They may think they can dole out their version of street justice but the community is no longer willing to tolerate their tactics. It has to stop."
Holdren will return to Mellaci’s courtroom on Dec. 19, where he faces a possible Life sentence in a New Jersey State Prison.
“The testimony and evidence presented in this trial painted a clear portrait of Carl Holdren as a murderous, gun-toting thug who thought nothing of taking a life to settle a score with another gang,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a release. “This verdict will ensure that he will remain behind bars where he will no longer pose a threat to the communities he terrorized with his fellow gang members.”
Holdren’s conviction stems from an investigation that began with the Nov. 21, 2006, double shooting of Michael Montgomery and Keith Logan on Hendrickson Street in Long Branch.
Montgomery was a confirmed member of the Brick City Brim set of the Bloods street gang and died as a result of a single gunshot wound to his hip. Logan, a member of the G-Shine set of the Bloods, was the intended target of the shooting, but survived a single gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Gramiccioni said Evidence showed that Holdren, Quemere McClendon and Valdo Thompson played a role in the Long Branch double shooting.
Holdren's conviction came from a 24-count indictment handed up by a State Grand Jury in 2007 that charged six men with gang-related activity involving a variety of crimes in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, including two Long Branch murders in less than one month.
The crimes were committed just before Thanksgiving to the day prior to New Years Eve, 2006.
Also charged in the indictment were Zackery Butts, a/k/a “Zoo,” 28, of Freehold,; Paul Lewis, a/k/a “P-Lew,” 25, of Long Branch,; Quemere McClendon, a/k/a “Tragedy,” 27, of Long Branch,; Darnell Stovall, a/k/a “D-Nell,” 26, of Long Branch,; and Valdo Thompson, a/k/a “SB” and “Soldier Boy,” 27, of Jackson.
McClendon, Stovall and Lewis were charged with the murder of Keith Mason on Dec. 12, 2006, in Long Branch. McClendon, Holdren and Thompson were charged with the murder of Montgomery and the attempted murder of Logan in Long Branch on Nov. 21, 2006. Holdren and Thompson were also charged with conspiracy to commit and attempting to commit the murder of Michael Stallworth on Dec. 28, 2006, in Lakewood. Butts was charged with Possession of a Handgun for an Unlawful Purpose.
All of the men also faced or are facing racketeering and conspiracy charges during this time period due to their involvement with the Bloods street gang and associated criminal behavior.
McClendon and Thompson were also charged in the Montgomery-Logan shooting-homicide. The charges against Thompson are still pending but McClendon has been convicted for both the Montgomery/Logan shooting and for the homicide of Keith Mason committed on Dec. 14, 2006.
In the Mason homicide, McClendon, Darnell Stovall and Lewis planned a home-invasion style armed robbery of Mason who lived on Second Avenue in Long Branch. During the robbery, McClendon shot Keith Mason once in the chest in front of Mason’s young son. McClendon, Stovall and Lewis all fled the scene and left Mason dying on his kitchen floor. Mason’s small child, who was not physically injured during the crime, was left alone with his dying father.
McClendon was found guilty of murder, armed Robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed burglary, possession of a weapon for an unlawful Purpose, endangering the welfare of a Child, and certain persons not to possess a firearm in 2011.
McClendon was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 55 years in state prison with a 40 year period of parole ineligibility.
McClendon also pled guilty to conspiracy to murder Keith Logan later the same year. He was sentenced in 2012 by Judge Mellaci to 20 years in state prison, subject to the No Early Release Act (NERA) requiring he serve a minimum of 85 percent of that sentence before becoming eligible for parole. The sentence was run concurrent to the earlier sentence.
Stovall pled guilty in 2011, to armed robbery of Mason, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, burglary, and endangering the welfare of a child. Pursuant to the terms of Stovall’s plea agreement, Judge Mellaci sentenced him to a state prison term of 22 years on Aug. 12, 2011. His sentence is subject to NERA, and therefore, Stovall must serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before he will be eligible for release on parole.
Lewis pled guilty in 2009 to armed robbery of Mason, conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, burglary, and endangering the welfare of a child. On Aug. 26, 2011, Judge Mellaci sentenced him to a State Prison term of 15 years. Pursuant to the NERA, Lewis must serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed before he will be eligible for release on parole.
In addition to the double shooting-homicide, the verdict returned by the jury on Tuesday also convicted Holdren of a robbery related to his gang activity, but unrelated to the shooting of Logan and homicide of Montgomery. That incident occurred on December 12, 2006, a few weeks after the shooting, when Holdren, acting on orders and in agreement with other gang members, including Thompson, robbed a man at gunpoint in Lakewood. Unbeknownst to Holdren, the victim, J.H., was an FBI Informant posing as a gun buyer.
Evidence presented during trial showed that on Dec. 28, 2006, tensions between the Sex, Money, Murder set of the Bloods street gang and a rival set of the Bloods street gang resulted in an attempt to kill Michael Stallworth of Lakewood. As disclosed during trial, the New Jersey State Police learned of the impending murder through a court authorized electronic intercept and took action to stop the homicide. With the assistance of the Lakewood Police Department, a motor vehicle stop was conducted on Butts’ vehicle, and a loaded .45 caliber handgun was found inside. Butts was on his way to deliver the weapon to Holdren. Holdren was found guilty by the jury on Tuesday of the attempt on Stallworth’s life.
Butts pled guilty in 2008, to possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in connection with the attempt on Michael Stallworth’s life. Pursuant to the terms of Butts’ plea agreement, Judge Mellaci sentenced him to a State Prison term of 8 years with a 4-year period of parole ineligibility on Feb. 4, 2011.
With the exception of Valdo Thompson, all of the men are serving lengthy jail sentences for their roles in crimes listed in the indictment.
The terms of the co-defendants’ plea agreements were reached after consultation with, and with the approval of, the families of the victims of the homicides.
As mentioned earlier, the charges against Thompson are still pending. He was charged with racketeering, conspiracy to murder Logan, attempted murder of Logan, murder of Montgomery, conspiracy to murder Michael Stallworth and the attempted murder of Michael Stallworth, all first degree crimes. He also faces additional charges involving weapons and the distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances.