MARTINEZ — A Contra Costa jury has begun to hear evidence in a murder case where the victim’s mother wore a wire and secretly recorded details from the only cooperating eyewitness.
Donald Ray Jeter Jr., 24, is charged with murder in the 2019 shooting death of 18-year-old Andre Piazza, who police allege was fatally shot during an illicit gun transaction on Lancaster Circle in Bay Point. Jeter is charged with murder, personal use of a firearm, and robbery.
In a brief opening statement at the start of trial Monday, Deputy District Attorney Jeremy Seymour told jurors that the case centered on two things: guns and greed.
“(Jeter) lured the victim to a parking lot in Pay Point with offers to sell him a gun,” Seymour said, later adding that instead, Jeter robbed Piazza, shot him, and “left him to die.”
Seymour said the case would be proved by cellphone records, Instagram messages showing Piazza was trying to buy a gun from Jeter, and Piazza’s friend, who witnessed the shooting and later told Piazza’s mother that “DJ” did it, unaware the woman was wearing a secret recording device. Piazza and Jeter were friends who knew each other’s families, Seymour said.
Defense attorney Carmela Caramagno, who represents Jeter, told jurors that it was actually Piazza who suggested the Lancaster Circle location, and said Piazza had messaged several people about purchasing a gun that day. She played jurors a 911 tape in which Piazza’s friend frantically told a dispatcher, “My cousin’s been shot” and struggled to figure out the name of the street, then yelled “No,” when asked twice if he knew who the shooter was.
Caramagno said the eyewitness eventually changed his tune and blamed the shooting on Jeter amid his own fears that Piazza’s family was blaming him for what happened.
During his opening statement, Seymour said Jeter had been convicted in 2015 of robbing someone at the same location, only this time the victim had answered an ad on Backpage, a now-defunct prostitution website.
Piazza was shot and killed Feb. 15, 2019, just days before Jeter and two others robbed a KPIX news crew and shot a guard, who survived, in Oakland. Jeter pleaded no contest to assault and robbery charges and received more than a decade in state prison, records show.
In December 2019, Contra Costa prosecutors charged Jeter and a second man, Ramon D. Brown Jr., 24, in connection with Piazza’s death. In 2021, Brown pleaded no contest to robbery.
The trial is being held before Judge Terri Mockler, at the AF Bray Courthouse in Martinez, and is open to the public.