Jury returns guilty verdict in murder case

Jury returns guilty verdict in murder case
Snyder (HANDOUT)

The Baltimore County man accused of shooting a man from New York to death in Gamber in October has been convicted by a Carroll County jury of nine counts, including first-degree murder.

Lester Aaron Snyder, 27, of the 3000 block of Rockdale Court in Windsor Mill, was convicted of the fatal Oct. 4, 2014, shooting of Luis Javier Pol, 23, of the Bronx, New York.


After hearing closing arguments Tuesday afternoon, it took the jury a little over an hour to return a guilty verdict on nine counts. In addition to first degree murder counts, he was convicted of second-degree murder, armed robbery, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, theft, assault, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or crime of violence.

After the verdict was read, the state entered a disposition of nolle prosequi regarding a 10th charge of manslaughter, meaning it would decline to prosecute.

Prosecutors argued Snyder shot Pol several times after dropping him off in an area near the intersection of Md. 32 and East Nicodemus Road in Gamber, a crime motivated by a drug dealing territory dispute.

Snyder's attorneys sought to establish reasonable doubt by suggesting Meghan Renee Goforth — Snyder's girlfriend at the time of the incident and the state's key witness as the only other person who saw the crime take place — had a motive to kill Pol because she needed money to pay bills for herself and Snyder.

Goforth pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and accessory after the fact on April 27 in connection with Pol's death.

Jurors began deliberations shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, announcing to the court that they had reached a verdict by 5:20 p.m. and returning to the court to read the verdict by just before 5:40 p.m.

Family of Pol packed an entire bench on the right-hand side of the courtroom to hear the verdict. Earlier in the day, supporters of Snyder had also filled a bench on the left-hand side, behind Snyder and his attorneys, but they were not there for the verdict.

Also absent was David McFadden, one member of Snyder's defense team, leaving his fellow attorney, Samuel Nalli, to stand with Snyder as the verdict was read. Snyder's face remained calm and he showed no emotion as the verdict was read. Sobs, meanwhile, could be heard from Pol's family members across the courtroom.

"Obviously we are very disappointed with the verdict. I thought me and Mr. McFadden did a pretty good job to establish reasonable doubt, but the jury came back pretty quickly, so it is obvious that they did not believe our version of the events," Nalli said in an interview after the verdict was announced. "Everything had Goforth's signature on it, but I believe the jury believed she was just a puppet for Snyder and that is what we are disappointed with."

In contrast with Nalli, Mayra Marin, Pol's eldest sister, said in an interview after the trial that she was not at all surprised at the jury's quick decision.

"It's common sense; everything pointed to [Snyder]. Every statement, every motion everything pointed to [Snyder]," she said. "It was absurd, the defense attorney trying to say that it was Meghan [that killed Pol]. He was guilty and that was obvious."

The verdict came after a trial of seven days, during which prosecutors called police officers, forensic experts and Goforth as witnesses. The defense called no witnesses.

The key witness was Goforth, who during the course of two days of testimony — and in videos of her interviews with law enforcement after her arrest on Oct. 5 — described how Snyder shot and killed Pol after Pol burned Snyder in a drug deal.

"Lester had sent $2,000 to New York and was supposed to receive drugs in exchange," Goforth testified on Monday, Aug. 24. "Lester never got the drugs or the money back."


Goforth mentioned that she and Snyder were behind on their utility bill and that the loss of the money had a negative impact on them both.

Goforth testified that on the night of Oct. 4, she had driven Snyder in her car to pick up Pol from Westminster and drop him off at a house near the intersection of Md. 32 and Nicodemus Road in Gamber. After Pol got out of the car, Goforth said, Snyder opened fire, shooting Pol seven times.

Goforth and Snyder fled and were pulled over by a Carroll County Sheriff's Office deputy shortly thereafter, who let them go after a short traffic stop, and they made it to their shared home in Windsor Mill after ditching the murder weapon and other evidence, Goforth testified. Goforth and Snyder were arrested the next day.

Goforth was initially uncooperative with police, lying about her and Snyder having any involvement with Pol's death, but agreed to make a statement on Oct. 5. She testified that the plea deal she took in April — guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and accessory after the fact — did not include any promises of lenient sentencing.

Goforth also testified that she did sign an agreement to testify on May 15 that stipulated she would receive a 15-year, suspended sentence with credit for time served and five years of probation for being truthful on the stand.

Judge Michael Galloway set Oct. 5 as the sentencing date for Snyder, and Nalli said Snyder will likely appeal the case after sentencing.

"We have 10 days to ask for a new trial and I don't think we have very good grounds for that," Nalli said. "We will be waiting … to see what Judge Galloway's sentence will be and then make our move from there."

Nalli said he is not yet certain if he will be representing Snyder during any appeal process, a decision that will be made by the Carroll County Public Defender's office. The office had hired Nalli, a private attorney, to defend Snyder because both Goforth and Snyder had applied to be represented by the public defender's office.

"That's a conflict — you can't have the public defender representing both clients," Nalli said. "I will check with them [Wednesday] to see if I can handle the appeal."

Marin and her family had traveled from New York to attend Snyder's trial starting when it began on Aug. 17, and she said she plans to be in attendance when he is sentenced, too.

"It brings a little bit of closure. We don't have our brother back, but we do know, and we are happy to know, that [Snyder is] in jail and [he is] going to rot in jail and [he] didn't get away with it," she said. "That would have been worse."

This story was updated to reflect an error in the number of convictions, and a scheduling change in the sentencing date.