Man denies planning deadly drug robbery

Joseph Tavares Jr. made a drug buy from Nikos Verikokidis one fateful day in June 2002.

He did a favor for a friend in the late night hours of the same day, traveling to the same south Everett apartment complex with two strangers to make a second marijuana purchase, Tavares testified Friday.

It was supposed to be just a drug buy, not a robbery, he told jurors. He said he didn’t know his two companions were armed until he reached the door of the apartment.

What happened in the first few minutes after midnight led to first-degree murder charges against Tavares, 20, of Everett in the shooting death of Verikokidis. Prosecutors said the shooting occurred during the course of a robbery. Tavares could spend decades in prison if convicted.

A second defendant, Tronie James Young, 28, of Everett, has the most to lose in the trial. He is accused of aggravated first-degree murder, and a conviction would put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

Young also is charged with first-degree assault for injuries to a second man in the apartment that night. Jeff Curran, 38, of Everett was shot in the back of the head with a 22-caliber pistol. The bullet bounced off his skull, and he survived.

The third person charged in the June 2002 shooting, Jamal Commis Holmes, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and agreed to testify against the co-defendants. Holmes is serving a 15-year prison sentence.

The prosecution contends that the three men went to the apartment with the intent of robbing Verikokidis of drugs and money. If that’s true, a jury could convict Tavares of murder even if he didn’t pull the trigger.

Tavares said Friday he went to get the drugs for a friend, not to use them himself. He testified he had been asleep when someone who knew he had a connection asked for the favor.

There was no discussion of a robbery or a plan between him and the two men, he told jurors.

When Verikokidis and Holmes started haggling at the apartment, Tavares said he started toward the door. He was outside when the first gunshot was fired, he testified.

"I just wanted to get home. I didn’t know what happened. I was scared," he said.

Young on Friday said he would not testify. Other evidence has pointed toward Young firing at Curran and Verikokidis.

Judge Charles French read instructions of the law to the jurors Friday. Lawyers are scheduled to begin closing arguments Monday afternoon.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or

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