By Beth DeFalco and David Porter
ABOVE PHOTO: Gerald M. Saluti, left, looks over court papers as his client Nicholas Welch, 25, appears in court before Judge Peter J. Vazquez to face charges related to the shooting of Seton Hall student Jessica Moore, 19, Wednesday September 29,2010 in Newark, NJ. Welch pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, conspiracy and weapons offenses.
(AP Photo/Joe Epstein)
NEWARK, N.J. – A man charged with shooting five people, killing one, at an off-campus party near Seton Hall University over the weekend pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance on Wednesday, hours before authorities in Pennsylvania arrested a second man accused of providing him with a gun.
Nicholas Welch, wearing an orange jumpsuit and with light facial hair visible, answered only “Yes” to whether he understood the charges against him. He faces murder, conspiracy, attempted murder and weapons charges.
Welch’s attorney, Gerald Saluti, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf during the 15-minute hearing and asked that his client remain in protective custody in jail. Essex County assistant prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo presented Saluti with a request to take a DNA swab from Welch, and Saluti said he would not fight the request.
Wednesday afternoon, police and U.S. marshals arrested Marcus Bascus at an apartment complex in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., about 75 miles west of the gritty East Orange neighborhood where the shooting took place. Welch lives on the same block where the party was held, and Bascus lives a block away, police said.
Bascus, who faces the same charges as Welch, was to be arraigned in Luzerne County, Pa., pending extradition to New Jersey. He was in custody Wednesday, and there was no telephone listing for him in East Orange, about a mile from the campus of Seton Hall, a well-regarded Roman Catholic university with a gated campus in South Orange.
Bail was set at $2 million for each of the men.
Police arrested Welch on Monday night at his house. They said he tried to enter a fraternity party in a privately owned row house, was refused admittance and then returned moments later with a gun and started firing. Jessica Moore, a 19-year-old honors student from Disputanta, Va., who was majoring in psychology at Seton Hall, was shot and died later that day.
The injuries to the other four victims weren’t considered life-threatening. Two of the injured were 19-year-old women who go to Seton Hall, and one was a 25-year-old man who attends the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The other was a 20-year-old man from New York City who is not a student.
Saluti said he was retained by Welch’s family on Tuesday night and had spoken to his client for only 30 minutes.
“I can’t even tell if my guy is the shooter at this point,” Saluti said after the hearing.
He said he was awaiting information about witness statements concerning Bascus, 19.
“I’m interested to find out what the interplay is between them,” Saluti said, declining to comment on whether Welch was at the party.
He said he thought Welch, a 25-year-old unmarried father of two, was “still in shock over the whole thing.”
Seton Hall student Derel Stroud said he saw the suspected gunman as he went to the house to pick up two girls to drive them home.
After an altercation inside the home, Stroud said, he saw a man with a beard walk from the house toward another man standing on the curb. Stroud said he heard the bearded man say, “Give me the burner,” which he took as slang for a gun.
With his friends in the car, Stroud said, he drove away but heard two gunshots in the distance.