Northampton D.A. to seek death penalty in fatal Williams Twp shooting

Nathaniel Markland accused in April 2018 homicide

By Edward Sieger
WFMZ Allentown

EASTON, Pa. - The Northampton County District Attorney's Office will seek the death penalty for the man charged in the April 2018 fatal shooting outside Easton.

Authorities charged Nathaniel M. Markland with homicide in connection to the fatal shooting of 42-year-old Shymeer J. Smith in Williams Township. Investigators allege the 29-year-old arranged a drug buy before firing two shots at Smith's car when he arrived.

Police arrested Markland about three months later in Allentown.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Richard Pepper filed notice that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Markland. Among the aggravating circumstances cited by the prosecution is the fact that Markland allegedly fired into the car also occupied by Davonna Barndt, who was driving, and Jacquelyn Padilla, the backseat passenger.

Markland also has a "significant history" of felony convictions involving violence or the threat of violence, according to the prosecution.

Markland was formally arraigned Thursday on charges of homicide, two counts each of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment and single counts of illegal possession of a firearm and carrying a firearm without a license.

The case has been tentatively listed on the Feb. 25 criminal trial list. Pepper said there have been no discussions about any type of plea deal.

The shooting occurred about 9:30 p.m. April 2 in the 1100 block of Centre Street. Smith was the front-seat passenger in a Kia Sorrento driven by Barndt.

Barndt told police that a man wearing all black, a mask and gloves approached the car that was stopped in the road, according to court records. She reported that Smith said he didn’t recognize the approaching man and told her to drive away. As the car pulled away, the masked man reached for his waistband.

Barndt said she heard two gunshots and heard the car’s back window smash, according to court records. An unresponsive Smith suffered a gunshot wound to the neck. Barndt drove to Easton Hospital in Wilson Borough, where Smith was treated and transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest. He was pronounced dead the next day.

Padilla reported that she saw the gunman lift his arm and heard two shots as she ducked down in the backseat. Barndt described for 911 a dark gray Land Rover in the area. Easton police reported finding the vehicle about 15 minutes later parked in the 1100 block of Northampton Street.

Investigators said they found a ski mask on the ground next to the Land Rover and a pair of dark gloves and another mask inside. Authorities said they also collected gunshot residue from inside the vehicle and from the gloves.

The owner of the Land Rover told police that he loaned the vehicle to his brother, Willie Wallace III, earlier that day. Authorities apprehended Wallace about a week later on an unrelated matter. He was considered a person of interest in the homicide.

Investigators said Michael Drummond approached state police and said he was a passenger in the Land Rover. He reported knowing neither the driver, nor the front seat passenger, who authorities allege was Markland. Drummond told police that he did know another passenger in the vehicle, Terrance Roderick, who had approached him about setting up a drug deal.

Court records indicate Drummond arranged to buy drugs through Smith and Barndt, the driver of the car in which Smith was shot and killed. Drummond told police that he and Roderick were allegedly picked in Easton up by the two men he didn’t know and driven to what he thought was a drug deal in neighboring Williams Township. Drummond also told police that Barndt is the mother of his children.

Drummond told police that the man later identified as Markland and Roderick got out of the vehicle. He then heard two gunshots.

During an interview with state police, Wallace said Markland, who he knew as “Smoke,” contacted him about setting up a drug deal. Wallace allegedly admitted to setting the wheels in motion and driving to the buy. He too told investigators that Markland and Roderick stepped out of the Land Rover for what he thought was a pending drug buy.

Wallace told investigators that he heard two gunshots and that Markland was wearing ski mask and holding a pistol when he got back into the vehicle. Investigators said surveillance footage shows two men approaching Barndt’s Kia Sorrento. The shooter is seen approaching from the passenger side and firing twice as the car drives away.

Wallace reportedly called Markland the next day and told him to turn himself in after learning that Smith died, according to records.

Authorities said Roderick provided a similar account of the shooting as the others in the Land Rover and allegedly admitted being the other man who approached the car with Markland. Roderick told investigators that he ducked after hearing two shots and that Markland was the only other person on the street.

As they drove away, Roderick said he heard Wallace ask Markland why he had a gun, according to records.

During an interview with state police, Markland denied any involvement, said he wasn’t in Easton the night of the shooting and told investigators he had never gone by the nickname “Smoke.” His girlfriend, meanwhile, said Markland told her he went by that name when he was younger.

She also told police that she drove Markland to work the night of the shooting. But police allege that records from his employer revealed he never showed up for work.

Investigators allege that account records for a previous cell phone number for Markland showed that his phone used cell towers near the shooting that night. Authorities also maintain that DNA collected from the mask and gloves matched the “major component DNA profile” for Markland.