Darren Brown fought for his life, as his three attackers beat and stabbed him last year in a wooded area near Colvin Avenue in North Buffalo.
The 16-year-old was stabbed a total of 54 times during the brutal attack July 5, 2012, on the former railroad tracks. His carotid artery and jugular vein were severed and his lung was punctured.
Even though it appeared Brown was done for, he jumped up twice to offer resistance but was beaten and stabbed again. After his throat was slit, the resistance stopped. He was dead.
One of the attackers spit on him; another dragged him into the brush and left him there.
Later that night, one of the three, Demetrius Huff, returned, doused the body with gasoline and set it on fire to destroy any DNA left by the attackers. Burns covered 60 to 70 percent of the body.
A jury on Wednesday found Huff, 18, guilty of second-degree murder in the grisly slaying, the second person to be convicted in the case. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 15 by State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.
Homicide prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable told the jury in her summation Tuesday that Huff’s statements to police and a fellow inmate at the Erie County Holding Center, along with sneakers stained with the victim’s blood that were found under a chair in the attic of the Jewett Parkway home where Huff lived with his grandmother, show he is guilty.
She also spoke of the victim.
“Darren Brown was not just a body,” she told the jury. “He was a person, a 16-year-old kid, somebody’s son.”
At that point, she paused, before resuming.
“Brown tells you who did this,” she said. “Listen to what his body tells you.”
The evidence included a detailed handwritten description of the attack that Huff gave to his fellow inmate after he was charged with murder. The inmate had asked him to write up the description after Huff told him he feared for the safety of his aunt and family in retaliation for the attack and asked if he and his friends could help.
In the statement, which the inmate turned over to authorities, Huff described how he ran into Brown on the street that day in July and said Brown told him he was a member of the same gang as Huff, the Rolling ’60s Crips, when he was really a member of a rival faction of the Crips.
After Huff took him by the house of a fellow gang member, Antoine “Deuce” Sanders, Sanders later told Huff to keep him away from his house because it had been shot up.
Sanders later told Huff and his friend, Ezeikele Nafi, that the three of them would attack Brown on the railroad tracks.
“Let’s go hit a lick,” Sanders told them.
Sanders told Huff and Nafi to jump Brown on the path, and they attacked and fought the teenager before Sanders joined in the fight.
“Deuce jumped in like a beast” and stabbed Brown in the chest, Huff said.
Huff, who was holding down Brown, let him go, but the victim jumped up, and Huff said he stabbed him in the legs and pelvis 10 times.
Huff said they were about to leave when the victim came back to life again. He said Sanders slit the victim’s throat and Nafi spit on the body.
Sanders removed the victim’s clothes and dragged his body into the bushes. Huff said Sanders told them they had to burn the body and warned them not to tell anyone about the attack or he would have to kill them.
He said they later met at Sanders’ house and changed clothes. He said Sanders told them that since Nafi had spit on the victim, they had to “clean up the area,” apparently to remove any DNA evidence. He told them to get some gasoline.
Huff said he got some gas, doused the body and lit it. “I almost burned myself,” he said.
Other evidence included statements by a homeless man who provided police with information that led to the arrests of Huff and Nafi, and two statements Huff gave police, including one in which he admitted stabbing Brown 12 times and later burning his body.
Nafi, 17, was sentenced in May to 25 years after a jury found him guilty of first-degree manslaughter.
Sanders, 20, has not been charged, although police said at Nafi’s trial that Sanders remained a potential suspect and had been interviewed.
Huff previously pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in Brown’s death, but he abruptly refused to cooperate in Nafi’s prosecution. So his plea was vacated and prosecutors renewed the murder case against him.
Assistant District Attorney Sara N. Ogden also prosecuted the case against Huff.