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Tavern murder suspect says he's innocent in Marine slaying

Dec. 5, 2013 - 08:09AM   |  
A memorial for slain former Marine Timothy Loper sits near the 20 Horse Tavern in Camden, N.J., where Loper was shot and killed early Sunday.
A memorial for slain former Marine Timothy Loper sits near the 20 Horse Tavern in Camden, N.J., where Loper was shot and killed early Sunday. (Chris LaChall / Courier-Post)
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Timothy Loper Jr. served in the Marine Corps for four years. (Marine Corps)

CAMDEN, N.J. — “I’m not a killer.”

Just after speaking those words to his attorney, Camden resident Darrell Crone turned himself in Wednesday for the murder of a Pine Hill Marine.

“He looked me in the eye and he told me: ‘Scott, I didn’t do this. I’m not a killer,’ ” Crone’s attorney, Scott R. Cohen, recalled.

Authorities allege the 31-year-old gunned down Tim Loper Jr., 27, as the latter tried to stop a fight outside the 20 Horse Tavern in Camden early Sunday morning.

But Crone says authorities have fingered the wrong man, according to his attorney.

Before his surrender Wednesday morning, Crone and several family members met with Cohen at the McDonald’s restaurant across the street from Camden County Police headquarters.

“He said he was sorry for the family of the victim, but they need to find the right person who did this,” the Cherry Hill attorney said.

Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, said Cohen had spoken with authorities Tuesday night.

Cohen said Crone’s mother was crying so hard inside the restaurant, she nearly fell to the floor. And an official close to the investigation said Crone was visibly shaken as he entered the lobby of police headquarters.

The prosecutor’s office Monday released surveillance footage of a suspect later identified as Crone.

He had been released on parole in March, authorities said. According to court records, he pleaded guilty to robbery in 2000 and to a weapons offense in 2010.

Crone will be arraigned this afternoon before Superior Court Judge Edward McBride in Camden.

Meanwhile, the tavern once hailed as a symbol of Camden’s revival when it opened nine years ago has been temporarily closed by the city.

City spokesman Robert Corrales said the bar at 2nd and Spruce streets was shuttered to “protect public safety pending the final disposition of this matter.”

Loper had been at the bar celebrating a cousin’s birthday, according to family members. The corporal, who was married with a 6-year-old daughter, had served a tour in Afghanistan and finished four years of duty in April 2012. His killing was the city’s 50th homicide this year and the second slaying outside the tavern to date.

Funeral services for Loper have been set for 11 a.m. Friday at Antioch Baptist Church, 700 Ferry Ave., Camden. A viewing will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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