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Key witness takes stand in case of 5 NJ teens

Key prosecution witness testifies in case of NJ man charged in 1978 murders of 5 teenagers By The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) ' The key prosecution witness at the trial of a New Jersey man charged with murdering five teenagers more than 30 years ago described for jurors Wednesday how the man herded the teens into a closet in an abandoned house, nailed the door shut and poured gasoline around the edges.

Philander Hampton said his cousin, Lee Evans, then demanded a match from Hampton, who testified that he fled before the house was set ablaze. Hampton testified that he wondered why Evans, from whom some of the teens had allegedly stolen marijuana, started pouring gasoline around the perimeter.

"I asked him was he really going do it?" Hampton said. "I didn't want to kill nobody."



The teens' bodies were never found. Police initially classified it as a missing persons case and never connected it to the fire. The case went cold for more than 30 years.

A confession to police by Hampton in 2008 helped revive the case.

He pleaded guilty to five counts of felony murder, but under 1978 sentencing guidelines applied to the case and a deal with prosecutors to testify against Evans, he's only required to serve 20 percent of the sentence before being eligible for parole. Hampton has been jailed since his March 2010 arrest, making him eligible for release in a matter of months.

Evans has pleaded not guilty to murder and is acting as his own lawyer.

An attorney assisting Evans, Bukie Adetula, grilled Hampton under cross-examination about his criminal record and a previous drug habit, questioning why he blindly did whatever Evans asked of him.

"Why didn't you say 'no' to all the horrible things Mr. Evans asked you to do?" Adetula asked.

"I didn't think he was going to do it," Hampton replied.

Family members of the missing teenagers packed the gallery for a second day of Hampton's testimony in State Superior Court in Newark. Evans also had several family members and supporters in the courtroom.

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Follow Samantha Henry at http://www.twitter.com/SamanthaHenry.


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Related Keywords:5 Missing Teens,Violent crime,Legal proceedings,Crime,General news,Law and order

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