Crime

2 men accused of killing Syracuse University student to face trial Monday

Courtesy of Onondaga County Sheriff's Office

Cameron Isaac, 24, faces a first-degree murder charge in connection to the death of Xiaopeng “Pippen” Yuan, a Syracuse University student.

Murder trial proceedings begin Monday morning for the two men accused of killing a Syracuse University student last fall.

Cameron Isaac, 24, and Ninimbe Mitchell, 20, face first- and second-degree murder charges, respectively, in connection to the death of Xiaopeng “Pippen” Yuan. Yuan, of Beijing, was an SU student at the time he died. 

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin mid-morning on Monday at the Onondaga County Courthouse. The judge overseeing the case, John Brunetti, denied a motion of severance earlier this year, meaning that Isaac and Mitchell will be tried simultaneously.

Syracuse-based defense attorneys William Sullivan and Paul Carey are representing Isaac and Mitchell, respectively. Sullivan and Carey each did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment on this story.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and Michael Kasmarek, a senior assistant district attorney, will try the case.

Fitzpatrick said he would be surprised if the trial lasts more than two weeks. He declined to discuss strategies or expectations for the trial.

Authorities say the two suspects arranged to meet Yuan, then a 23-year-old student from China, at the Springfield Garden Apartments in DeWitt last September for a drug deal. Authorities allege Isaac robbed and killed Yuan upon meeting him. Mitchell is accused of being the getaway driver in the murder and of helping to plan it, which is why he was also charged with murder.

Authorities discovered Yuan dead on Caton Drive at the Springfield Garden Apartments on Sept. 30. Drugs were found in Yuan’s car when law enforcement arrived at the scene, something that has led them to believe that his death was a drug deal gone wrong.

Isaac and Mitchell were arrested in November and charged with murder in the second degree, robbery in the first degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Isaac later had his murder charge upgraded to first-degree murder. The two were indicted in January.

Isaac was also later charged with tampering with a witness, a misdemeanor, after he allegedly asked a witness not to testify in the murder trial.

Both Isaac and Mitchell have been held at the Onondaga County Justice Center since mid-November without bail.

If convicted, Isaac faces up to life in prison without parole and Mitchell faces up to 25 years to life.

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