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Cambria Heights man tries to move forward

Lloyd Brown decided on July 3, 1998 that he needed to spend the day with his family. He said he had not spent any time with them for a while so he thought it would be nice to go with them to the Green Acres Mall in Spring Valley, L.I.

On the same day at about 5:35 p.m., Dale Smith was gunned down in a barrage of bullets inside his home at 2015 Pittman Ave. in the Bronx.

Brown, 20, who lives in Cambria Heights, was accused of the 1998 shooting death of Smith and released March 29 after being held on Riker's Island for 19 months on murder charges.

The charges were officially dropped in April when Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson said his office could not prove Brown's guilt and there were questions surrounding the credibility of the eyewitness.

"I feel lighter like a burden has been lifted," said Brown, a shy and unassuming young man who is a huge soccer fan, in an interview last week. "Mentally, I was never in jail. Everything has come back to me."

Brown is doing the best that can be expected under the circumstances and is trying to put the whole ordeal behind him, said his attorney, Deron Castro. He wants to move on with his life and study computer systems in college.

Brown first moved to Cambria Heights from the island of Jamaica in 1995 to be with his parents, but returned to Jamaica to finish high school. In 1997 he came back to New York to look for a college.

"There was no physical evidence to prove Brown committed the crime," Castro said. "There [were] no fingerprints, DNA or gun - the whole case revolved around Elroy Evans."

Brown was indicted on Sept. 28, 1998 for murder in the second degree and related offenses.

The Bronx DA said Evans and Smith were sitting outside Smith's home in the Bronx when four men wielding guns forced them inside and onto the floor. The men initially followed the gunmen's orders, but Smith got up and started to fight with one of the armed men who shot him during the struggle, Johnson said.

The shooter was described as a 6-foot black man, 25 to 30 years old, with a slim build who spoke with a Jamaican accent.

Johnson said after the four gunmen left the scene without stealing anything, Evans went to Smith's bedroom and stole a large amount of cash. He said Evans never called 911 or tried to help his dying friend. Instead, police were summoned by customers at a beauty salon across the street.

On July 8, 1998, Evans identified a possible suspect in a photo at Mount Vernon police headquarters, but could not pick him out during a lineup. The district attorney said police told the witness "to stop playing around and to identify someone or he was going to be charged himself."

According to court papers, Evans identified Brown in a photo and in a lineup on Aug. 23, 1998.

Castro said Brown's photo was in a mug book because he had been arrested in Queens on July 24, 1998 for a robbery he did not commit. Castro said the case was dismissed by a grand jury and the records were sealed.

Castro said he provided witnesses for the DA's office who said Brown was with his family on the day of the murder, including a waiter who had seen him in a restaurant in Nassau County at the time of the shooting.

Brown's lawyer said a waiter at a Friendly's Restaurant in Valley Stream remembered seeing the family because of a conversation he had with them. Castro said Brown's father had a receipt from shopping at Sears that day.

"We had all of the people verify that Lloyd was with family members," said Castro.

About a week and a half after the arrest Brown was indicted by a grand jury and for the next 19 months he and his family waited for the trial, said Castro.

"Finally, the DA dismisses the case based on the information they had all the time he was in jail," Castro said. "In an interview with Channel 7, the mother of the deceased said she told the police from the beginning that it was not the individual they had arrested and he was a scapegoat to make an arrest."

Castro said he has been surprised by how well Brown has handled the situation, but thinks that anyone who spends 19 months in jail for a crime he did not commit could be affected in the long run.

Brown is now moving forward with his life. He is taking computer classes at the Metro-White School in Newark, N.J. on Saturdays and Sundays. He is also looking for a job where he can earn some money. He said he found a job but it does not pay very much and forces him to commute to Long Island.

While in jail Brown said he was kind of anti-social and only became friendly with three people. He said he spent his time studying psychology - to figure out why people react the way they do - and black history.

"I am definitely angry," he said. "I do not suppress the anger but transfer the anger and move forward."

Brown said he would like to know why Evans picked his photo out of the mug book, "but I can't be concerned because I am home."

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