The fatal shooting of a Turlock single father outside an apartment complex has netted a 60-year prison sentence for the Ceres man held responsible by a Stanislaus County jury.
In August, Devenae Price, 26, of Ceres, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Falane Jones on April 23, 2016. The jury also found true the criminal enhancements that Price used a firearm in the commission of the crime and was a felon in possession of a firearm. Price's co-defendant Kevin Barnes of Modesto was found guilty by the same jury of being an accessory after the fact.
On Tuesday, Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira sentenced Price to 60 years to life, citing the senselessness and violent death of Jones as a compelling reason to give Price the maximum sentence.
Jones was with his uncle at the Villas Parkside Apartments at 381 W. Hawkeye Avenue on the night of April 23. Shortly before 10 p.m., the pair where in the parking lot of the apartment complex when a black car pulled in and the driver opened fire at Jones. Jones was struck four times in the face, chest and neck. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he died from his injuries. Jones was a father to a young girl and worked at a Tracy warehouse. His last Facebook post, added just a few hours before his death, talked about how much he loved his mother and father. Jones was not involved in any criminal activity and the prosecution believed he was gunned down because Price mistakenly thought he was someone else.
Turlock Police investigators, led by Detective Tim Redd, were able to obtain witness statements that provided them with a description of the vehicle and the suspects seen at the shooting. A search of the area was conducted in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, but the suspects were not located until a few days later in Alameda County. An Alameda County Sheriff's deputy was attempting to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation when the driver, later identified as Price, sped away. The vehicle pursuit came to an end when Price crashed the Lexus into a home and he and the three passengers ran from the scene. A perimeter was established in the San Leandro neighborhood and Price, along with Kelley Trezvant of Modesto and Deandranae Campbell of Livingston were taken into custody. The third passenger was not located at that time. It was after the arrests that information began to develop about the homicide, leading the sheriff's department to contact Turlock Police Department investigators. Two spent shell casings - a brass one and a silver were found in the cowl area of the Lexus, referring to the space between the hood and the windshield. The shell casings matched two other shell casings recovered at the Turlock scene, according to court records. Law enforcement also found a loaded .40 caliber handgun in the Lexus. Trezvant and Campbell were initially charged with being accessories after the fact, but the charges were later dismissed. Barnes was apprehended May 1, 2016 when he was stopped by a San Francisco police officer for an unrelated matter. Barnes initially provided that agency with a false name, but during the course of their investigation, they determined Barnes was a wanted person by the Turlock Police Department.
Barnes admitted that he had been dropped off at the apartment complex just prior to the shooting. He said he was entering the apartment of his girlfriend when he heard the shots and got down on the ground. A short time later he was in the apartment when Jones' uncle came in and said his nephew had just been shot. According to the testimony, Barnes at one point yelled out that he didn't do it that it was Nate. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether he said Nate or Nae, which the prosecution pointed out is a shortened version of Devenae.
While Price was in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail authorities intercepted a letter in which he instructs his mother to tell his friends how to answer certain questions when investigators came around. Specifically, he states that he and Barnes will say the same story about Nate and that his friends should say they never met a man named Nate in person and only talked to him on the phone. Both Price and Barnes have pointed to Nate, a Crip weed dealer from Stockton, as the real killer. Deputy District Attorney Jeff , who prosecuted the case, told the jury Nate is a made-up person that the two have tried to pin the crime on. Deputy District Attorney Jeff Mangar, who prosecuted the case for the people, had cell phone records that put both Price and Barnes at the scene of the crime at the time of the shooting. Investigators also found that Price had obtained the exact same black Lexus seen at the shooting hours earlier at an Oakland dealership.
The jury took close to a week for their deliberations and made their verdict after hearing an unusual closing argument from the defense. Out of the presence of the jury defense attorney Robert Winston, who was representing Price, told the court that Price wanted him to include in his closing argument that Price was the victim of a "grand conspiracy" by law enforcement to set him up for a crime he didn't commit. Winston told Silveira that he was highly against the idea of putting this notion to the jury at the last minute and described it as a "destructive argument." "Frankly, I'll sound like an idiot doing it," Winston said at the time.
At Price's insistence the theory was presented to the jury in the defense's closing argument.
Price had been released on parole 35 days prior to the fatal shooting for an armed robbery conviction in Contra Costa County.
Barnes will be sentenced at a later date. He also is facing charges of attempted murder in an unrelated case.