Jamaal Edwards's Mixed Verdict in Double Killing, Claimed Role of Acid

Update: Jamaal Edwards, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder after a double homicide in January 2015, has been found guilty of a lesser charge in one of the deaths. In the second slaying, the jury failed to reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial. A new trial has been ordered in the latter case, which took place amid an ugly incident that Edwards is quoted as summing up with the two-word phrase "Shit happened."

Our most recent update, originally published on January 22, 2015, has been incorporated into page one of this post. Previous reports, supplemented by shocking statistics about fatalities among members of Denver's homeless community, can be found on page two.

According to Edwards's probable-cause statement, on view below, officers were dispatched to unit 102 at 1425 Xenia Street — a Colorado Coalition for the Homeless complex whose residents included many formerly homeless individuals — during the early hours of January 7, 2015, after a woman called 911 to say she'd discovered a friend of hers bleeding on the floor and apparently dead.

Upon their arrival, the cops found two victims: John Shoeboot, pronounced dead at the scene, and James Brown III, who died shortly thereafter at University Hospital. Autopsies showed that both of them died as a result of multiple sharp-force injuries.

Detectives subsequently learned that another 911 call had come in around the time of the slayings, this one from Edwards. During the conversation, he was quoted as claiming "he had seen someone murdered."

The next day, investigators tracked down Edwards. He initially said he'd seen an unidentified man stab Shoeboot and Brown to death. But the cops weren't convinced, owing to alleged inconsistencies in his account, not to mention two cuts on his right hand.

During another interview, the report quotes Edwards as saying he "argued and physically fought with the two men and 'shit happened.'" He added that after obtaining two knives, he blacked out. When asked who he'd stabbed first, Edwards said he didn't recall, though he did remember sticking a knife into a couch. He also acknowledged that he'd disposed of the clothing he'd worn that night, because the items had blood on them.

Shortly thereafter, Edwards was charged with first-degree murder in each death. But the details of the crimes were unclear from the beginning, with Edwards's mom telling at least one local media organization that her son said he'd taken acid during drinking games he'd been playing with the men and was unable afterward to remember precisely what had taken place.

Such factors may help explain the mixed verdict.

After a seven-day trial in April, the jury opted not to find him guilty of first-degree murder in Shoeboot's death, instead convicting him of second-degree murder — another charge that prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney's Office had included. But no conclusion was reached when it came to Brown's death.

The DA's office could have dropped the matter at that point. Instead, Edwards will be tried again for the Brown killing, with the start date for the new trial currently set for October 3 — several months after his scheduled June 23 sentencing for taking Shoeboot's life.

Continue for our earlier reporting.

Update, 5:32 a.m. January 13, 2015: Last week, we told you about a double homicide at a Xenia Street apartment complex that provides shelter for once-homeless people, among others; see our previous coverage below. Now, the identities of the victims — John Shoeboot, 53, and James Brown III, 42 — have been released and a suspect — Jamaal Edwards, 29 — is in custody regarding the crime. As for what happened, Edwards reportedly suggested to his mom that something bad had happened after he tried acid. 

At around 2:40 a.m. on January 7, as we've reported, Denver police officers were called to an apartment building on the 1400 block of Xenia Street.

There, they found one man, Shoeboot, dead, and another, Brown, in critical condition. Brown was later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

The apartments are part of a Colorado Coalition for the Homeless complex, and 7News notes that approximately two dozen formerly homeless people live there in addition to other residents.

Among them was Shoeboot, seen in this Facebook photo from last year:

His page also features the following graphic:

Shoeboot is said to have been formerly homeless and had a younger man staying with him; he referred to the latter as his nephew.

Thus far, the Denver coroner's office is only confirming that autopsies on Shoeboot and Brown were performed without revealing the cause of death. Likewise, the Denver Police Department is limiting the amount of information made public beyond confirming that Edwards has been jailed in relation to an investigation of first-degree murder.

However, Edwards's mother, Faye, offered more details to 7News. She tells the station Edwards called her to pick him up at a Walmart in Stapleton around 3 a.m. the morning of the slayings.

His account of the evening, according to her: He'd been playing a drinking game with "his homies" when they decided to try acid. Afterward, he said his head hurt and "I feel like I've been fighting."

Nonetheless, Faye believes Edwards, who has what 7News characterizes as a lengthy criminal record, was "set up."

Look below to see the aforementioned 7News piece. After that, view our original coverage, including a report noting that 84 homeless people died in Denver circa 2014.

Original coverage, 5:46 a.m. January 8: A double homicide at a Xenia Street apartment complex has received modest media coverage to date for a sad but predictable reason: The building in question is run by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and deaths among the homeless population are shockingly common. A new report notes that 84 homeless people died in Denver last year, five by homicide — and that total actually represents a downward trend. 

The first official word of the incident came via this Denver Police Department tweet: "#BREAKING UPDATE: Death investigation in 1400 block of Xenia Street, w/2 male victims, now being investigated as possible double homicide. z

A subsequent DPD release revealed that the 911 call from the Xenia Street apartment complex came in at around 2:40 a.m. Responding officers found one man dead at the scene, with a second male victim pronounced dead after being rushed to an area hospital.

CBS4 reveals that one of the bodies was found inside, while the other was outside.

The presence of surveillance cameras at the facility raises hopes that the movements of a killer or killers will have been captured on video, but thus far, there have been no arrests or suspect descriptions shared publicly.

While no names of the victims have been issued thus far, CBS4 notes that most residents of the building are members of the homeless community trying to move on with their lives.

The station reveals that one victim was engaged to be married in May.

The violent act that has prevented a happier one arrives against the backdrop of a newly released Colorado Coalition for the Homeless report called "We Will Remember 2014: Homeless Death Review." The document, included in its entirety below, notes that 84 homeless people died in Denver last year, with five individuals, or 6 percent, perishing via homicide. Here's a graphic depicting the manner of the deaths:

The general public tends not to hear about many, if not most, of the homeless casualties in Denver, so the 84 death total may seem shockingly high. But another graphic reveals that the number is down from 124 deaths in 2013 and 140 in 2012.

Not that 84 deaths can be considered good news — and the latest double homicide certainly starts out 2015 on a sad note. Our condolences to the friends, family and loved ones of the victims.

If you have any information about this incident, you're encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867), which is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts