Crime

3 key points in murder trial linked to Syracuse University student’s death

Michael Burke | Senior Staff Writer

The verdict for the two suspects in the murder trial in connection to the death of a Syracuse University student was announced after about a week-long trial.

Last September, Syracuse University student Xiaopeng “Pippen” Yuan was shot twice and left dead in a grassy section of the Springfield Garden Apartments complex. Yuan had gone to the apartment complex to sell marijuana to Cameron Isaac, 24, and Ninimbe Mitchell, 20. After being held at the Onondaga County Justice Center since November without bail, Issac and Mitchell went on trial for their connection to Yuan’s death. Here are some of the key points from the trial:

apartment_samogozalekswSam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Location, location, location

On Aug. 9, cellphone-mapping expert Rafal Dobrowolski testified in court. His analysis uncovered important details about Issac and Mitchell’s locations in the hours leading up to Yuan’s death. Information provided by cell towers allowed Dobrowolski to trace the approximate locations of the cellphones and the times they were there. Before Yuan’s death, the phones’ locations were tracked moving from North Syracuse, where Isaac lived at the time, to an area including the Springfield Garden Apartments in DeWitt. According to authorities, Yuan died about 12:50 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2016. At 12:54 p.m., the phones of Isaac and Mitchell were located moving away from the DeWitt area, according to Dobrowolski’s analysis. By 12:54 p.m., the two phones were located moving west from the Springfield Garden Apartments toward a Cricket Wireless store, where Mitchell purchased a new phone for Isaac under a false name. According to Dobrowolski’s analysis, the first cellular activity from that phone came at 1:20 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2016.

springfield-gardens-1Sam Ogozalek | Asst. News Editor

Two-of-a-kind 

Matthew Kurimsky, a firearms examiner for Onondaga County who examined evidence recovered from Yuan’s murder, testified during the murder trial that the bullets recovered from Yuan’s body closely resembled those found in Isaac’s apartment when it was searched in November. Kurimsky said the design and weight of the bullet recovered from Yuan’s body struck him as unusual. He said despite having previously worked hundreds of cases in his lab at The Wallie Howard Jr. Center For Forensic Sciences, he had never seen “any ammunition like this in the past.” “It caught my eye when I saw those similarities,” he said during testimony.

mugshotsCourtesy of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office

Between the lines

On Aug. 10, Laura Collins, the lead detective in the murder trial, discussed text messages sent between Issac and Yuan in the month leading up to his death, as well as a number of text messages between Issac and his friends. Collins said Isaac told a friend via text message he planned to rob Yuan of marijuana. The prosecution showed texts in which Yuan and Isaac discussed buying 2 pounds of marijuana. In a text to a friend that day, Isaac said he was “drawing up a play,” which, according to Collins, is informal terminology for a robbery. The other major piece of evidence presented was a phone call that Isaac made from prison to his girlfriend days after his arrest. While discussing an interview that his girlfriend had with authorities, Isaac told her that he hoped she “ain’t say nothing stupid.” She responded that the authorities “knew I knew some stuff.”

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