Co-defendant in Milford slaying tells of shooting

MILFORD — Step by step, co-defendant Eusebio Melendez-Ventura recounted the six days leading up to his 2009 arrest in the fatal shooting of Jose Chevere, 28.

Time after time, in about four hours of testimony Thursday, Melendez-Ventura points the finger of blame at co-defendant Javier Cruz-Falcon, who is on trial.

Chevere was shot several times and his body left on a rural road in the city’s north side.

He had worked for Melendez-Ventura, buying cocaine for resale.

Melendez-Ventura was in New York Aug. 23 with Javier Cruz-Falcon when he got a call that up to $10,000 and eight kilos of cocaine, worth about $500,000, were missing from his West Haven home.

Chevere was one of three who knew the stash was in the house, Melendez-Ventura testified in Superior Court.

The third was Melendez-Ventura’s roommate, Cruz-Falcon, 38, who is on trial for a second time on murder and kidnapping charges. His first trial last year ended in a hung jury.

Cruz-Falcon has pleaded not guilty.

Melendez-Ventura, 25, recalled Cruz-Falcon’s reaction to the news was something like: “‘Oh, wow. They’re going to kill us.’”

Cruz-Falcon was ultimately responsible for the cocaine, which was kept in the room where he slept, Melendez-Ventura testified.

Asked by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Charles M. Stango to explain, Melendez-Ventura said “they” were the owners of the cocaine. “The people from Puerto Rico.”

Melendez-Ventura and Cruz-Falcon turned around and went back to Connecticut to find Chevere.

They drove Melendez-Ventura’s minivan around the Hill section in New Haven, where Chevere lived.

They were accompanied by co-defendant Daniel Dingui-Cardona, Melendez-Ventura said.

Chevere’s cellphone was called many times.

The theft of the cash, not the drugs, was reported to the West Haven Police Department in hopes of tracking the thief, Melendez-Ventura said.

“We had the idea that they (police) could fingerprint,” he said.

They went to a parking lot on Long Wharf and borrowed a gun, which he gave to Cruz-Falcon, Melendez-Ventura said.

Eventually, they met Chevere at the West Haven house.

Chevere got out of his car and approached the minivan. “He was not making sense, what he was saying,” Melendez-Ventura testified.

Cruz-Falcon knocked Chevere on the head and pushed him into the minivan, Melendez-Ventura said.

“Javier says to me, ‘Drive.’ … And we are on the highway.”

They eventually arrive at Zion Hill Road, an isolated, wooded area.

Cardona helps pull Chevere out of the van, Melendez-Ventura testified.

Seven or eight shots were fired, he testified.

As the van is pulling away, Cruz-Falcon says to stop, and gets out.

“That’s when Javier Cruz went to Jose Chevere’s body and took his cellphone and wallet,” Melendez-Ventura said.

“I remember thinking, ‘Wow. He just killed Jose Chevere,’” Melendez-Ventura said.

The three found their way back to New Haven and returned the gun.

In the days following, Melendez-Ventura and Cruz-Falcon move around, staying at a private home and two hotels.

Eventually, a city police detective tracks Melendez-Ventura from the Super 8 motel parking lot in West Haven to a New Haven shopping plaza, where he is taken into custody.

“He looked right at me, and said, ‘I’m in big trouble,’” retired Detective Arthur Huggins testified.

“And I asked him why. ‘My friend Jose, who was killed.’”

Melendez-Ventura said he had not eaten or slept in the three days since the slaying.

“‘I’m glad you found me because I was afraid Jose’s friends were going to kill me,’” Huggins testified he said.

Cruz-Falcon is being held in lieu of $2 million bail at Bridgeport Correctional Center.

Melendez-Ventura is being held at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield awaiting sentencing in the case.