The Collegian
Friday, March 01, 2024

Man suspected for gunning down Brendan Tevlin pleads not guilty


One of the three suspects who were arrested and charged with the murder of Brendan Tevlin has plead not guilty. Tevlin, who completed his freshman year at Richmond this spring, was shot and killed in his family's Jeep June 25 in New Jersey.

According to Essex County prosecutors, Ali Muhammad Brown, 29, Jeremy Villagran, 19, and Eric Williams, 18, were charged. Brown is a registered sex offender and wanted for a double-murder in the state of Washington, according to authorities.

"They surrounded [the Jeep] on foot," acting Essex County prosecutor Carolyn Murray said at a news conference Monday. "One individual interacted briefly with Brendan Tevlin and then, from the passenger side of that vehicle, shot at him 10 times, striking him eight times."

Brown pulled the trigger, according to officials, and then drove Tevlin's vehicle to the apartment complex where he was later found, while Villagran and Williams acted as accomplices.

All three men appeared in state Superior Court Wednesday afternoon and face murder, robbery and weapons charges.

In court, Brown pled not guilty on all accounts dealing with Tevlin's death. However, when police found him in a wooded area behind a retirement community in West Orange July 18, he had a gun that matched the one used in Tevlin's killing, prosecutors said. The weapon also matched the gun that authorities believe was used in an armed robbery that took place in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, just days before Tevlin's death, and in the murder of two young gay men in Seattle June 1.

Unlike the victims in Seattle, whom Brown had arranged to meet via a social networking app called Grindr, investigators in Essex County said Tevlin had no prior contact with Brown or the other two men charged with his murder.

CBS 2 spoke with a resident of the apartment complex where Tevlin was found, Pat DiPasquale, who said Villagran was his neighbor.

"I am surprised because he was a good kid as far as I know. He never did anything wrong," DiPasquale said.

Brown's bail was set at $5 million and Villagran's and Williams' were each set at $1 million.

Brown could face the death penalty in Washington state, if convicted. Authorities there say a decision on which jurisdiction would try Brown first is likely to be made in a few days.

Contact staff writer Stephanie Manley at

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