Suspect: Pizza driver targeted

brad nettles/staff Stephawn Brown enters court Monday for his preliminary hearing in the killing of pizza delivery driver Maraleius Birdsong.

A teenager accused in the killing of a pizza delivery driver shared with detectives a damning statement from another teen he named as the triggerman:

“Stephawn said, ‘I’m gonna get that boy,’ ” 18-year-old Jontae Davis told investigators.

Stephawn is Stephawn Brown, the 19-year-old alleged gunman in the March 9 attack. “That boy” is 20-year-old Maraleius Birdsong, a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver and a student at Trident Technical College.

A preliminary hearing for Brown on Monday morning revealed new details from the case against him. After hearing the facts, North Charleston Municipal Judge Thad Doughty found probable cause on each charge and moved the case forward to a grand jury.

Someone called in an apparently bogus Domino’s order to the Appian Way Apartments in North Charleston. The people who answered the door to Birdsong turned him away and suggested he try another apartment, where no one answered the door.

Someone shot Birdsong in the back of his head as he walked back toward his car. Authorities believe Brown fired that shot and ran away with chicken wings and cinnamon sticks.

Brown appeared Monday in an orange-striped jail jumpsuit and glanced briefly at Birdsong’s mother and aunt. North Charleston police Detective Candy Johnson said investigators traced the Domino’s order to a cellphone registered to Brown’s mother.

Brown’s mother told police that the phone belonged to her son, Johnson said. Police found Brown lying in the back seat of his mother’s SUV in the parking lot at Appian Way, his body covered with a blanket.

Johnson said he didn’t move when they called to him but that, when they pulled him out, they found pre-packaged marijuana. Investigators discovered 11.5 grams of weed under Brown, Johnson said, and another 7.9 grams separated into small plastic bags inside a medicine bottle.

Inside his mother’s apartment, investigators discovered two chicken wings around Brown’s bedroom dresser and another two wings in the microwave, according to Johnson. They found Domino’s napkins and “residue” from cinnamon sticks.

The order consisted of three eight-piece cinnamon sticks, one 14-piece hot wings, one 14-piece mango-habanero wings and a 20-ounce Sprite.

Police found an insulated Domino’s delivery bag and a ski mask along the wood line near the apartments, along with a black ski mask. Johnson said DNA on the ski mask matched Brown.

Police also collected Brown’s DNA from the grip, clip and trigger on a gun found at the apartments, Johnson said. The gun remains with state investigators for processing.

Police arrested Brown on charges of murder, armed robbery, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute marijuana within a half-mile of a school. Fort Dorchester High School is across the street from Appian Way apartments.

Brown’s attorney, Mark Leiendecker, noted that no witnesses saw his client or Davis with a gun that day, and that no one saw them with masks. Leiendecker pointed out that police searched Birdsong’s car early in the investigation and found a handgun inside.

South Carolina residents who do not have a felony conviction can carry guns in their cars, so long as they keep the weapons in a secure place, such as a trunk or glove compartment. Police found a gun under the driver’s side seat in Birdsong’s car.

Leiendecker also asked Johnson about a “second victim” mentioned in a report and “presumptive marijuana.” Johnson said investigators found no drugs in Birdsong’s car, and authorities have said that Brown and Davis didn’t know Birdsong.

Leiendecker pointed out that his client made no statements to police. Davis spoke to investigators the day after the shooting and then returned three days later.

Davis named Brown as the gunman but, in doing so, implicated himself by putting himself at the crime scene, according to Johnson. Davis remains at the Dorchester County Detention Center on a murder charge.

Birdsong’s aunt, Julianna Cruz, said after Brown’s hearing that she and her sister relive the details of the crime with each trip to court. She wondered aloud about Brown’s alleged statement to Davis the day of the attack.

“ ‘I’m gonna get him?’ Why?” Cruz asked. “He was just delivering food.”

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or allysonjbird.