The Brooklyn man accused of fatally shooting a teenage babysitter in front of her 3-year-old cousin pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday and his lawyer suggested there is a lack of evidence linking him to the slaying.
Taariq Stephens, 24, is jailed on murder and weapons possession charges in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Shemel Mercurius Tuesday.
The victim's family stood a few feet from Stephens on Friday as he was escorted out of the precinct station. Stephens looked at the ground as he walked and didn't make eye contact with any of the family members.
"I wanted to see if I know this guy, but honestly, I don't know this guy," said Dexter Mercurius, the victim's father. "I wanted to know why this guy killed my daughter."
Surveillance video released by police shows a man identified as Stephens taking the elevator up to the sixth-floor apartment on Brooklyn Avenue in East Flatbush Tuesday, where Mercurius was taking care of her young cousin.
He then racks what police say is a 40-caliber submachine gun before entering the apartment, where he allegedly fired three rounds at the girl.
Investigators haven't recovered the submachine gun.
Attorney Jay Cohen, representing Stephens, said he hasn't seen the videotape.
"I'll review it and see how damning, if it's damning at all," he said.
"Right now, I don't see any evidence in the case," Cohen said. "Again, they can't tell me whether or not there was any identification by any civilian witnesses and there doesn't seem to be any statements."
The relationship between Stephens and Mercurius isn't clear. Investigators are looking through text messages between them, but "she does not say it's her boyfriend," according to Boyce. "From what we can read of the texting, it is not a romantic relationship at all. So there's a lot more to go on this case, more to figure out."
Stephens has six prior arrests, according to police.
Mercurius was found semi-conscious in her apartment and later died at Kings County Hospital. She was able to name Stephens as her killer before she died, police said.
Her 3-year-old cousin was unharmed.