Prosecution lays case as murder trial opens

It’s a squalid tale of drug lifestyle, greed, guns and betrayal, a deputy prosecutor told a Snohomish County jury Wednesday.

It’s also a story about death and one lucky man who apparently was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head and lived to testify at the trial of two men accused of murder.

Tronie James Young, 28, of Everett has the most to lose. He is charged with aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree assault and being a felon in possession of a firearm. If convicted, Young stands to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The assault charge stems from a gunshot to the back of Jeff Curran’s head, prosecutors said.

Also in jeopardy is Joseph Manuel E. Tavares Jr., 20, of Everett, who is charged with first-degree murder. A conviction likely would mean he would be behind bars until he’s well into his 40s.

They are accused of killing Nikos Verikokidis, 22, in a south Everett apartment during a supposed drug deal that went wrong.

One of the main witnesses will be Curran, the 38-year-old man who was shot in the head and lived, deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said at the beginning of the trial Wednesday. Another will be the third man who accompanied Tavares and Young to the Everett Country Club Apartments early in the morning of June 21, 2002, Jamal Commis Holmes, 29, of Lynnwood.

Holmes pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and agreed to testify against Young and Tavares. He’s now serving a 15-year prison term.

Matheson described Verikokidis as a drug dealer who had been contacted by Tavares, who wanted to buy 2 ounces of marijuana. The two defendants and Holmes arrived at the apartment "with every intent to rob" him and Curran, Matheson said.

It was a lifestyle that "led to the fatal intersection of five lives," Matheson told jurors. The would-be robbers considered the heist an "easy lick," the prosecutor said.

The five men went into a back bedroom of the tiny apartment, where Curran was pushed to the floor, kicked and shot in the back of the head with a .22-caliber pistol, Matheson said.

"Why the bullet didn’t penetrate his brain, I’m not going to be able to answer that during this trial," said Matheson, who told jurors the bullet bounced off Curran’s skull.

He lost consciousness briefly and woke up to see Young emptying his pistol into Verikokidis, Matheson said.

Curran, who apparently was left for dead, called police after the assailants left, Matheson said.

Holmes was arrested a few hours later and Tavares turned himself in to police. It took police about three months to find Young in Tacoma, Matheson said.

The decision may sound easy for the jury if they only heard the prosecutor’s story, said Ronald Ness of Port Orchard, one of Young’s lawyers. But there’s more to the story than that.

"The only people who can tell you what happened in that apartment that night are Jeff Curran and Jamal Holmes, Ness said.

He told jurors that Curran lied to police at least twice, and Holmes told his story only after he got a deal — the manslaughter charge.

"Mr. Holmes didn’t come up with his story, which the state wants you to believe, until after he made a deal," Ness said.

He said jurors will have a reasonable doubt about Young’s guilt after the trial.

Tavares’ lawyer, Max Harrison, said he will reserve opening statements until after the prosecution rests its case.

The trial is likely to continue through this week.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or

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