This is the otherwise-unknown story of the murder of Joshua Bell, and of how his accused killer walked free.
On March 19, 2016, at 10:28 a.m., multiple Orlando police units responded to 3952 WD Judge Drive, #110, in reference to a shooting. Upon arrival, units located Joshua Bell leaning on the second floor railing directly in front of apartment #110. With a life-threatening gunshot wound. Bell was transported to the hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.
Two eyewitnesses stated that yelling and screaming had caught their attention. They observed a red-complected black male, 6′, bald-headed, wearing a red shirt and blue jeans, placing items in the trunk of a burgundy Impala. One also noticed a dark-skinned black male, ~5’6″, with short dreads, a red/black striped shirt, and black jean shorts – running up the stairwell. Both heard a single shot, and observed a heavyset black female, ~5’5″, with a ponytail, white shirt, and gray skirt, running down the stairs with an infant in her arms. The female and the bald-headed male entered the Impala and departed.
At the hospital, Detective Mike Stanley met with Bell’s parents, Sherry and Nathanial Jones, along with Bell’s girlfriend, Laquanda Nero, with whom Bell had a child. Nero stated that she had been at a tire & rim store to make a payment, and that in lieu of payment, she was going to return the tires and rims that were at her residence. She called her aunt, Yvonneya Gary, and asked her to pick up the tires and her child, and to bring both to her at the store.
While Nero was waiting for Gary, she was “pocket dialed” by Joshua. She heard screams and returned home, where she found Bell shot and leaning over the railing. A short time later, Shereta Ward, along with Gary and Nero’s infant arrived. Gary drove a burgundy impala, and matched the description of the black female observed departing the scene of the shooting. Stanley asked Nero if she had an idea of who would have been with Gary. She answered Gary’s son, Rouquan Exile, and her own brother, Courtney Nero.
After one interview and multiple story-changes, Gary contacted Detective Stanley. In an audio-recorded interview, Gary stated she wanted to tell the truth, and related that after receiving a call from Nero asking Gary to bring her tires and child, she went over with her son Rouquan and with Courtney Nero. She and Nero went upstairs, while Exile began placing Nero’s tires in the trunk of Gary’s Impala. Gary picked up Nero’s child, then saw Courtney and Josh arguing inside Nero’s apartment. The argument moved to the porch, and Gary was standing in the doorway when she saw Courtney and Josh standing close to each other and arguing, followed by a gunshot. She heard Bell exclaim, “You shot me! you shot me!”
Gary stated she panicked and ran down the stairwell and entered her vehicle while holding Nero’s child. Gary stated Exile entered her vehicle, and she handed the child to Exile. Courtney entered her vehicle and sat in the front passenger seat, at which time he stated, “It’s going to be alright, Auntie.” Gary stated that Courtney expressed no remorse about shooting Bell.
On March 29, 2016, the Orlando Police Department Tweeted “Arrested: Courtney Nero, on warrant for 2nd degree murder in 3/19 shooting death of Joshua Bell at Palm Grove Apts.” That’s the last anyone heard about it.
Nero was charged with second degree murder and held without bail. “The Court finds that the proof is evident and the presumption is great that the Defendant committed the charged offense.”
On May 20, 2017, the defense requested and was granted a continuance: “State has witness issues and is actively looking for two eyewitnesses.”
And then Ms. Gary developed heart problems. The kind that somehow coincided with the dates of her subpoenas.
On June 26, 2017, Gary told ASA Frank George that she was prepared to testify that:
1. She was drunk at the time she gave her statement and “on other things.”
2. The police made her say whatever she said.
3. She had no memory of the events. She didn’t even remember why she, Courtney, and her son went to the apartment.
“I handed her statement to [her] and she said she didn’t have her reading glasses. I offered to read it to her. She stated it wouldn’t matter because she would not remember any of it and would not say that at the time she said those things, she believed she was telling the truth. It was obvious from speaking with her that she had received legal counsel, as she was not putting herself in a position of perjuring herself. I asked her if she was really willing to allow a murderer to go free. She replied she doesn’t know what happened.”
The charges were dropped. Defendants have a right to a speedy trial, and the State’s time was up. Witness problems. Previously facing life in prison for murder, Courtney Nero was free.
@What You Haven’t Seen
00:00 Interview of Yvonneya Gary
28:00 The truth comes out
37:27 The case falls apart
38:44 911 calls