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Cellphone records, gun testing lead to murder arrest

By Karen Florin

Publication: The Day

Published December 13. 2012 4:00AM

Darius Bishop and his accused killer were seen together and had multiple cellphone contacts in the hours before Bishop's body was found in a Bozrah ball field, according to state police.

Bishop, 28, of Norwich, was found lying face down at the Charles L. Long sports complex in Bozrah on Sept. 25 with a gunshot wound to the head, according to state police.

On Monday, police charged Dequan McKethan, 34, of 61 Summit St. with murdering Bishop. McKethan had been held in lieu of a high bond since two days after the shooting, when police said he was pulled over for a traffic infraction and found with a .22 caliber Beretta pistol. They said McKethan had been pulled over within 300 feet of the Bills Avenue area in Norwich where police had found the victim's car.

McKethan is now being held in lieu of a $1.5 million bond.

There is no apparent motive detailed in the arrest warrant affidavit.

According to the warrant, McKethan agreed to speak with investigators after his arrest. He said he regularly bought marijuana from Bishop but had not spoken to him for over a week.

Confronted with phone records that indicated there were several calls between the two men that night, he said he had called Bishop but had not spoken to him. McKethan "denied any involvement in the death of Bishop but vowed to find the person responsible for his death," according to the affidavit. McKethan told police he had been home on the night of the shooting.

Bishop's girlfriend, Jonel Gilbert, told investigators that Bishop left the apartment in his Toyota Corolla about 10 p.m. to "meet up with some friends." She said he called her at midnight and told her he wouldn't be much longer.

He called again at 1 a.m. to say he had "gotten lost and was on his way to her," according to the affidavit. That was the last time she heard from him.

Police interviewed McKethan's girlfriend, Chelsea Vanderslice, who said McKethan had left the apartment about 10 p.m. that night, returned at 11 p.m. and left again at 1 a.m. Vanderslice said she woke up the next morning and saw their car was parked outside, but McKethan was not home. She said the women who lived downstairs told her another man, Duryell Barham, had driven their car back. She said when she woke up again, McKethan was home.

Cellphone records indicate Bishop's and McKethan's phones were both in the Greeneville section of Norwich after 10 p.m., and, a few hours later, in the Griswold area. Investigators determined Bishop sent text messages from the area of Route 2 and Interstate 395 and then from Bozrah. The last text was sent at 2:16 a.m.

A resident who lives near the ball field said he heard a single gunshot between 2:10 and 2:30 a.m.

State police spoke to a former girlfriend of McKethan's, who told them she lived near the ball field in Bozrah when they were dating and that he would sometimes accompany her on her daily walks at the baseball field complex.

Police also interviewed McKethan's downstairs neighbors, who said McKethan used their cellphone that night to call Bishop at 9 p.m. and that Bishop sent a text to say he was "on his way." One of the neighbors said Bishop then came to McKethan's apartment, stayed 15 to 20 minutes and left, saying he was going to the Gold Club in Groton.

One of the neighbors, Casondra Daniels, told investigators that McKethan pulled her aside two days after the shooting and asked her if she had heard that Bishop "got popped."

The police traced the serial number on the .22 caliber pistol and learned it was registered to Timothy McDonald of Uncasville. McDonald said he had given it to a friend, Robert Couture, five years ago. Couture is now deceased. McDonald had notified police that he no longer had the weapon in 2010 when he had to surrender all his firearms due to a domestic incident, according to the affidavit.

The state forensic laboratory test-fired the Beretta they seized from McKethan and made comparisons of the firing pin impressions on shell casings from the test fire and the casing found next to Bishop's body. Results indicated they appeared to have come from the same weapon.

The lab also confirmed that McKethan's DNA was on the Beretta's trigger after comparing a swab taken from McKethan to swabs taken from the trigger and magazine. However, his DNA was not found on the gun's grip, slide or on cartridges recovered from McKethan.

k.florin@theday.com

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