Two men plead not guilty to murder of Army veteran in Stoneham

WOBURN — The two men accused of murdering US Army veteran Joseph Puopolo Jr. opened fire after their plan to rob a drug dealer of a pound of marijuana fell apart inside a Stoneham home, a prosecutor said today.

Jessie Williams, 24, of Medford, and Eugene Tate, 19, of Malden, were arraigned in Woburn District Court today where they both pleaded not guilty to murder, armed robbery, and other charges. Judge Timothy H. Gailey ordered both men held without bail.

In court, Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Thomas O’Reilly described the events that led up to the killing of Puopolo, who had served in Afghanistan before leaving the Army about a year ago.

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O’Reilly said that on July 2, Williams and Tate were involved in negotiations with a dealer to purchase a pound of marijuana, but those negotiations collapsed when the parties could not agree to terms of the deal.

At that point, an unidentified middleman stepped in and an agreement was reached between Williams, Tate, and the 28-year-old dealer, whose name has not been made public, for the sale of a pound of marijuana, O’Reilly said.

“The 28-year-old victim asked Puopolo to come to the home because he was concerned the proposed deal may be a drug rip-off,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

Early in morning of July 3, Williams and Tate went to a home on Micah’s Pond Way in Stoneham to complete what was supposed to be a drug deal for one pound of marijuana, which normally sells for about $3,500, O’Reilly said. Williams and Tate allegedly offered the dealer $700 in cash.

After a brief altercation in the garage of the Stoneham home, both Williams and Tate allegedly opened fire on Puopolo and the dealer, who is recovering from his wounds at Massachusetts General Hospital, O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly said Williams described the circumstances of the shooting following his arrest in East Boston on Sunday. Tate surrendered to Stoneham police Sunday evening.

Tate’s attorney, Moya R. Gibson, said her client has no criminal record and is currently enrolled at the New England Tractor Trailer Training School. She said Tate graduated from Malden High School, where he played sports and took part in other extracurricular activities.

Gibson also questioned the credibility of the two men who identified Tate to authorities—Williams and the injured marijuana dealer—pointing out that Williams has a criminal record and the other was selling a large quantity of marijuana.

Members of Tate’s family attended his arraignment, but declined to speak to reporters.

Williams was represented by attorney Stanley W. Norkunas. Both defense attorneys asked that their clients not be shown in court.

At the request of prosecutors, Gailey ordered records in the case to be impounded.