Judge: Probable Cause That Roger St. John Participated in Rhett Gelb Murder

Judge John Ramsey Johnson found probable cause Thursday that Roger St. John participated in the May 2013 shooting death of 22-year-old Rhett Gelb, even though St. John wasn’t the shooter.

Charging documents say Gelb was shot and killed in a drug deal gone bad.

Witnesses told police that they were in Gelb’s Escalade the night he was murdered, and that Gelb was parked in the unit block of Hamilton Street Northwest waiting for a middleman named “Gary,” to buy $500 of marijuana.

When Gary arrived, he got into Gelb’s car, and Gelb gave him the $500, documents state. But a few minutes later an unknown man entered the car through the right rear side door and pointed a gun at Gelb, demanding the money, charging documents state.

Gelb refused. He got out of the car and walked around to the right rear side of the vehicle to confront the unknown man, documents say. As Gelb opened the rear door, he was shot.

At the preliminary hearing Thursday, MPD detective Joseph Della-Camera testified that after the unknown man shot Gelb, he searched the front seat compartment for money. The shooter then left in a silver Lincoln Town Car.

After the shot was fired, the shooter ran toward the Lincoln Town Car, but it was already pulling away,” Della-Camera said Thursday. “The Lincoln then stops, the shooter enters the car, and they drive off.”

Police believe St. John was the driver that night, and that he drove the shooter to and from the crime scene in the Lincoln Town Car, which was registered to St. John’s wife, Della-Camera said.

Police found cell phone records that connect Gelb, Gary and St. John, including records of phone calls made between the three just before Gelb was killed.

Prosecutors argued Thursday that although St. John was not the man who shot Gelb, St. John is still held responsible because he accommodated the shooter, driving him to and away from the crime scene.

St. John’s defense attorney, Mankea Sinha, claimed that St. John didn’t know what was going on in Gelb’s car, and that he drove away in fear after hearing a gunshot being fired.

The shooter has not been arrested and remains unidentified.

Gelb was found on May 27, 2013, at approximately 7:50 p.m. on the unit block of Hamilton Street Northwest with a gunshot wound. He was taken to a local hospital and admitted in critical condition. He died two days later.

More than six months later, police arrested St. John, 41, on suspicion of first-degree felony murder while armed in connection with Gelb’s death.

St. John remains held pending a status hearing on April 11 with Judge Johnson.

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