Roanoke investigators help convict N.J. man
Derrick Jones pleaded guilty to using a firearm he obtained while in Radford.
By Mike Gangloff
Roanoke-based investigators learned this week that their work to track a gun bought in Radford and used to kill a 14-year-old in New Jersey helped convict the shooter.
Derrick M. "D.Y." Jones, 29, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J., to using a firearm in connection with the death of Barry Robertson.
The case's twists and turns included drug turf battles and the flight of Jones to a Radford University student's apartment. Jones was a drug dealer who led a gang called OGM, for Organization to Get Money.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Wolthuis, who helped prosecute Jones, credited Tom Gallagher, a Roanoke-based special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a New Jersey homicide investigator with unraveling the case.
They began work after Robertson's death in August 2005. Jones was an immediate suspect. He had threatened Robertson's aunt after she refused to join OGM's attempt to take over drug dealing in a sprawling apartment complex, Wolthuis said.
Investigators traveled between New Jersey and Virginia to track the feud. When associates of the aunt had attacked Jones, he called his half-sister in Radford, court documents said.
The sibling, RU student Jessica Zarebski, brought Jones, his girlfriend, baby and a top lieutenant back to Radford. She became alarmed as they discussed selling drugs and running guns out of the New River Valley, Wolthuis said.
Zarebski is a former freelancer for The Roanoke Times. She didn't answer requests to comment for this story.
Wolthuis said Zarebski, a Navy veteran, was on a very different path from Jones. But he said he wouldn't leave without a gun -- something that he, as a felon, could not buy -- and she agreed to help.
Investigators gathered receipts and even video from Zarebski's purchase of a pistol, bullets and a file to remove the gun's serial number.
Jones and his companions returned to New Jersey. Staying at a friend's apartment, Jones argued with his girlfriend and fired a shot into the ceiling. Later that night, someone shot seven bullets through the outside wall of Robertson's aunt's apartment at the couch where she usually slept. But the teen lay there instead.
Investigators never found the gun. But they showed that shell casings and the grooves on spent bullets were consistent with the ammunition and pistol bought in Radford. They found the bullet fired when Jones argued with his girlfriend. Its marks were like the bullets found around Robertson.
Gallagher was on vacation this week and could not be contacted for comment. His boss, ATF Supervisory Special Agent Bart McEntire, called the case challenging.
Jones' sentencing is scheduled for October. He faces a 22- to 27-year sentence.