Suspect to face jury trial for Beau Zabel murder; alleged shooter could face death penalty

Published 6:31 am Tuesday, March 25, 2014

By Mike Newall
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — Marcellus Jones, the suspected killer of Beau Zabel, a teaching student from Austin who was gunned down for his iPod near the Italian Market nearly six years ago, was indicted Monday on murder charges.

The indictment, issued by a grand jury, means Jones, 35, already serving a life sentence for killing his suspected getaway driver, will stand trial for allegedly shooting Zabel once in the neck as he walked home from his night shift at a Starbucks in June 2008.

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Beau Zabel moved from Austin to Philadelphia in May 2008, and was scheduled to start work in Philadelphia public schools.

The 23-year-old teaching fellow enrolled at Drexel had lived in Philadelphia for only six weeks before he was killed. Zabel — a 2003 graduate of Austin High School and 2008 graduate of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. — was just eight houses from his apartment when Jones and another man confronted him on a dark street in South Philadelphia.

Jones, according to a December arrest report, showed friends Zabel’s iPod shortly after the killing, saying he pulled the trigger because he was angry that he did not get anything more from the robbery.

The final break in the case came in October, when detectives received a letter from an acquaintance of Jones who wanted to talk. The letter led investigators to interview Jones’ family, and at least one relative told police that Jones had spoken directly about the Zabel killing.

In 2012, Jones was convicted of killing Tyrek Taylor, a 19-year-old from South Philadelphia who police say was driving Jones the night Zabel was killed. Taylor’s murder took place three months after Zabel was killed.

Jones, according to police, told a friend that Taylor “had to go” because he might be “snitching.”

Because of concerns that there could be further witness intimidation, prosecutors chose to present the case against Jones to a secret indicting grand jury, instead of in open court.

A trial date has not yet been set.

Given Taylor’s murder, and that Zabel was killed during the course of a robbery — a felony — Jones could face the death penalty.

The District Attorney’s Office has yet to say whether they will pursue capital punishment.

—Distributed by MCT Information Services. The Austin Daily Herald contributed to this report.

For more information on the Beau Zabel murder case, check out these past Herald stories:

Warrant issued for his alleged killer, already serving life

Austin mother ‘overwhelmed’ by break in son’s murder case