Jurors could not reach a verdict in the murder trial of a Fort Wayne man charged in the 2016 slaying of Brian Quintana, forcing a retrial.
The jurors were deadlocked on the first two counts of murder and felony murder and found Devyn Yancey, 20, not guilty of robbery.
Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Jeffrey Stineburg said new trial dates will be set Jan. 17.
Prosecutors argued during a three-day trial that Yancey was the mastermind of a robbery that quickly went sideways, and that Quintana was shot to death.
Jurors deliberated for more than nine hours Thursday on a possible verdict that could have sent Yancey away for more than 45 years for murder and between 10 to 30 years for robbery.
Kevin Hamilton, 17 at the time, who fired the fatal shot into Quintana's chest, was tried as an adult and convicted in 2017 of murder, robbery and a sentencing enhancement for using a gun to commit the crime. Now 21, he is serving a 74-year prison sentence.
Hamilton and Yancey went Aug. 14, 2016, to meet Quintana, who Yancey said had shorted him on an earlier drug deal. Text messages showed Yancey planned to rob Quintana in a parking lot at Woodbridge Apartments, according to witness testimony and court documents.
Yancey admitted to the robbery in a recorded phone call at the Allen County Jail, Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Josh Michael told jurors.
Quintana was shot after a struggle inside his car, Hamilton told investigators. Under Indiana's felony murder law, a person can be charged with murder if someone dies in the act of another crime such as robbery or burglary.
The person can be convicted even if the death was unintentional.
“Every damn piece of evidence we have points to Devyn Yancey being the mastermind here,” Stineburg said. “He was in control of everything that night. Kevin Hamilton and Devyn Yancey acted in concert that night. They murdered Brian Quintana.”
Defense attorney Robert Gevers saw things differently.
He and Yancey – who testified Wednesday – agreed the text messages show a robbery was planned. But Quintana agreed to provide the marijuana Yancey claimed he was denied – 10 grams worth about $100 – and Yancey called off the robbery, Gevers said.
Hamilton started the fight that ended with Quintana's shooting, not Yancey, Gevers argued.
“It's Kevin Hamilton that gets into the back seat and escalates matters,” he said. “There's nothing that ties Devyn Yancey to that gun.”
Police arrived around 10 p.m. to the 1900 block of River Run Trail and found Quintana lying in the parking lot, clinging to life. He told officers Hamilton shot him, Michael said.
Two men who lived at the apartment complex testified Tuesday they heard a gunshot and saw Quintana, who was unarmed, stumble and fall while trying to get back to his car. Prosecutors said Yancey and Hamilton sped away in Hamilton's car, where police said they found the weapon used to shoot Quintana – a Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun.
Yancey's fingerprints were found on Quintana's car and on a bag of marijuana taken from the car, investigators said.
Wearing a blue, button-down dress shirt, Yancey looked worried when the jury walked in to deliver the verdict but appeared to tear up with relief when he realized he had not been convicted. His mother, who did not want to identify herself, sat on his side of the courtroom and started to cry.
Outside the courthouse, a group of about 20 people in support of Yancey, some of whom identified themselves as childhood friends, also did not want to speak. One man said Yancey had attended North Side High School.
Robin Pfeiffer, homicide detective when the killing occurred, talked to the group. No one is sure how the trial will evolve with one count decided, but she tried to counsel them.
Because of Quintana's death, “three young lives are completely changed,” she told the crowd.