Seventeen-year-old Maurice Stansberry Jr. caught second-degree murder, robbery and weapons charges this past month. Now he is out and back at Kingston High School.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018, the New York State Police at Kingston investigated the report of a shooting that occurred in the roadway on Sawkill Road in the town of Ulster shortly before noon.
Accompanied by his father Maurice Stansberry Sr., age 38, 17-year-old Kevin Gardener, Stansberry Jr. acted as the getaway car driver at a trailer park where a failed drug deal turned into an armed robbery shortly before Mark Lancaster, 39, of Kingston, was shot dead.
Cops believe the robbery occurred over two ounces of marijuana.
“It wasn’t the weed that got Mark murdered. He was murdered protecting his son,” said Lancaster’s younger sister Dakotah Middaugh.
The drug deal and armed robbery over two ounces of marijuana occurred between Stansberry Jr. and Lancaster’s son. After the stick up, Lancaster’s son called his father to inform him of what happened. Lancaster immediately reported to the scene.
Lancaster confronted Stansberry Sr. about the armed robbery, which ultimately led to a screaming match in the trailer park. After a nearby resident reprimanded the men for the commotion, Lancaster and his son left the scene in their vehicle.
The Stansberry’s and Gardener chased down the Lancaster vehicle and proceeded to shoot at the car. The chase ended near 341 Sawkill Rd. where Lancaster allegedly pulled over, got out of his vehicle and was shot in the torso.
Lancaster was tragically pronounced dead at HealthAlliance Hospital’s Broadway Campus. He is survived by his eight children, his youngest child being four-months-old and his oldest being 16-years-old.
On Jan. 15, an Ulster County grand jury indicted Stansberry Jr. with second-degree murder, robbery and weapons charges. Stansberry Sr. was charged with two counts of Murder Second Degree and one count of Criminal Possession of a weapon Second Degree.
Authorities have not said who among the three suspects — Stansberry Sr., Stansberry Jr., or Gardener— fired the fatal shot, though the prosecutor, Ulster County Senior Assistant District Attorney Emmanuel Nneji, said in court that the younger Stansberry was not the triggerman.
Though Stansberry Jr. did not fire the fatal shot, Nneji said, “he shared the intention” with his father and was an accomplice to the robbery.
Under New York’s “felony murder” statute, defendants can be charged with murder if they are found to have participated in a crime during which someone is killed. The statute applies even if the defendant is not accused of directly causing the victim’s death.
County Judge Donald A. Williams set bail at $300,000 cash or $600,000 property. Thanks to Stansberry Jr.’s grandmother, who put up her own home for his bail, Stansberry Jr. is out of jail and back at Kingston High School.
Kingston City School District Superintendent Paul Padalino declined to discuss specifics of the case, but wrote in a prepared statement issued Wednesday, Jan. 16, “We are aware of the situation and have taken appropriate measures to keep our students safe.”
What these “appropriate measures” are remains unclear.
While the Kingston High School Code of Conduct does not explicitly identify the disciplinary actions required for such a serious crime, burglary and “conduct which causes physical, emotional or psychological injury” fall under the category of “level four offenses.”
The punishment for “level four offenses” include long term suspension, parent and guardian notification and expulsion and restorative justice strategies.
In response to a Facebook post made by the Kingston City School District about a student bringing a BB gun to school, community member and concerned parent Sarah Lee wrote, “And yet the school failed to inform parents until now after someone went public with this information. How, as parents, are we supposed to feel safe sending our kids to school if you neglect to keep us informed on things related to their safety?”
There is a substanital lack of evidence of the Kingston City School District informing its parents of Stansberry Jr.’s crime and his return to school.
Nevertheless, the story of Stansberry Jr. returning to school after being indicted for murder has made waves in the Kingston community, sparking both supportive and critical reactions.
According to Joseph O’Connor—Stansberry Jr.’s attorney—Stansberry Jr. holds a high academic standing within Kingston High School, with “a number of recommendations” from his teachers and being a member of the student council.
The Daily Freeman reported that at least 20 young friends, including Charles Kennedy, Trayvon Landerway and Tyleaf McGriff, attended Ulster Town Court on Tuesday Dec. 4 to support Stansberry Jr.
According to The Daily Freeman, Kennedy said their friend “just got himself in the wrong situation. He’s not that type of person.”
McGriff also went on to describe Stansberry Jr. as a “nice person, an outgoing person” who was always there when his friends needed him.
“It’s still crazy how he’s back at school around other people’s children after what he did,” Middaugh said.
A large amount of community members expressed dismay over Stansberry Jr.’s return to school, particularly through Facebook.
“It is entirely unacceptable to allow someone to go back to living a free-range life after having so much hatred, contempt and anger on the inside that you would resort to taking someone’s life over such a miniscule matter,” said Kingston High School graduate Meghan Padilla.“It just isn’t plausible to me for him to just be given a slap on the wrist. That’s not how someone learns from their mistakes.”