Submitted: January 10, 2018
appeal from the Superior Court.
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware ID. No.
A. Barber, Esquire, (Argued), Wilmington, Delaware and Brain
J. Chapman, Esquire, Newark, Delaware, for Appellant.
T. Knoll, Esquire, (Argued), Wilmington, Delaware, for
VAUGHN, SEITZ, and TRAYNOR, Justices.
Appellant, Christopher Rivers, was convicted at a jury trial
of two counts of Murder in the First Degree, two Counts of
Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony,
Conspiracy in the First Degree, and Criminal Solicitation in
the First Degree. He sets forth two claims on appeal. First,
he claims that the trial court's denial of his motion for
a change of venue from New Castle County to either Kent or
Sussex County prevented him from receiving a fair and
impartial jury trial because of highly inflammatory and
sensationalized media coverage and the New Castle County
public's reaction to it. Second, he claims the trial
court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence
co-defendants' statements made after the murders were
committed pursuant to the co-conspirator hearsay exception
under Delaware Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E). We find no
merit to either claim and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
approximately 1:28 a.m. on September 22, 2013, New Castle
County police officers responded to a reported shooting at 84
Paladin Drive, Wilmington, Delaware. They found that Joseph
Connell and his wife, Olga, who had only recently been
married, had been shot and killed in the front yard of their
house. After an extensive investigation, the police arrested
Rivers on September 3, 2014 and charged him with the murders.
and Joseph Connell had been business partners in C&S
Automotive Repair. Through their investigation, the police
determined that Rivers' motive was to obtain the benefit
of life insurance proceeds on Joseph Connell's life. In
October, 2012, Rivers and Connell obtained a mortgage from
Susquehanna Bank in connection with their business. The
mortgage amount was a little less than $1, 000, 000. As part
of the transaction, they were required to purchase life
insurance on both of their lives in the amount of $977, 500
each to pay off the mortgage if one of them were to die. The
death of both Connells would result in Rivers owning the
business free and clear of the Susquehanna mortgage.
police investigation revealed that Rivers had agreed to pay
Joshua Bey $60, 000 in exchange for Bey arranging to have the
murders carried out. Bey, in turn, agreed with Dominque
Benson and Aaron Thompson that Benson and Thompson would
commit the murders.
$60, 000 was not paid prior to the murders. Rivers gave Bey a
$5, 000 down payment. After the murders, Rivers gave another
$5, 000 to Bey, which Bey gave to Thompson. Later Rivers gave
$2, 500 to Bey which Bey gave to Benson. Later he gave $1,
500 to Bey, which Bey also gave to Benson.
murders generated media coverage. In his opening brief,
Rivers has included a list of 49 television, radio, print or
internet items of media coverage. He claims that the media
coverage was highly inflammatory and sensationalized.
Articles following Rivers' arrest discuss the possible
murder-for-hire scheme in which Rivers was alleged to have
engaged a middle man to hire one or more people to kill the
Connells. The murders became known as the Paladin Club
killings. After a proof positive hearing in December 2014,
The News ...