Sep. 15—SALEM, Mass. — The murder of man found dead in a Lawrence parking lot in June 2019 was precipitated by a drug deal gone bad, according to court records.
Niko Bianco, 24, of Amesbury, and Devin Hayes, 32, of Haverhill, both were indicted on charges of murder and armed assault with intent to rob after the murder of Ellis Wright, 22, of Lynn.
On June 19, 2019, a jogger found Wright's body in a parking lot near 85 Manchester St., where the market and wholesaler La Fruteria is located.
The parking lot is next to Manchester Street Park and the Spicket River.
Wright was found lying on his back and a handgun was located a short distance away from his left hand.
A prescription drug bottle, car keys and a ball cap could also be seen nearby in a pool of blood.
A Superior Court judge this summer heard arguments from defense attorneys to dismiss the charges of armed assault with intent to rob against Bianco and Hayes.
However, Judge James Lang denied the motions and ruled evidence before the Essex County grand jury was "sufficient to establish probable cause to believe the following ... "
"At the time of the events in question, each defendant was armed with a handgun; Bianco paid money to the decedent for drugs, demanded his money back after sampling the product, and was rebuffed by the decedent; Hayes then joined Bianco in communicating the demand that the decedent return the money; Hayes' gun fell from his hand and was appropriated by the decedent, who exchanged fire with Bianco; both shooters were wounded, and the decedent succumbed to his injuries," according to court records.
Lang ruled that "according to permissible construction" of the evidence, Bianco and Hayes assaulted Wright while they were both armed with handguns. And they did so with the intent to get Wright to part with money he had just been paid for drugs, the records state.
He said the evidence supports both of their indictments for armed assault to rob and of "Hayes for murder as a joint venturer of Bianco."
Reports containing details of the crime were previously impounded by district court judges at the prosecution's request.
The punishment for first-degree murder is life in prison without parole.
The next court date for Bianco and Hayes is Oct. 26. Trial dates could be scheduled at that time.
Both remained held at Middleton Jail.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.