HAYWARD -- A Hayward man who turned his friend in to police for fatally shooting a small-time marijuana dealer while claiming no personal involvement is poised to spend the rest of his life in prison, while the shooter has a chance of being paroled one day.
An Alameda County jury on Tuesday found Joseph Thomas Connors, 23, guilty of first-degree murder in the course of a burglary in connection with the killing of 28-year-old Maurice Collins. He is expected to be sentenced on Sept. 11 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Deputy district attorney Jimmie Wilson said Connors was the mastermind behind a burglary at Collins' condo on Vanderbilt Street in Hayward that went horribly wrong when Collins pulled out a gun and was shot in the head by a frightened and panicky Richard Anthony Delosangeles.
Connors and Delosangeles thought the residence was empty and planned to steal marijuana that Collins was known to sell to friends and acquaintances, including Connors and Delosangeles.
Connors put on a bulletproof vest and gave Delosangeles a gun "just in case," Wilson said, before they climbed a tree to a balcony and broke inside using a screwdriver.
Collins was in bed with his girlfriend when the couple was awakened by two masked men entering the bedroom. Collins reached for a gun he kept in a beside table for protection, and Delosangeles fired off two shots in response.
Delosangeles was so distraught over killing Collins he told his mother and several others what he did. Connors was afraid that he would be implicated so he went to Hayward police with the murder weapon and a story that Delosangeles disclosed to him that he was the killer and acted alone, Wilson said.
"Connors thought he was going to crack," Wilson said. "He wanted to get ahead of it."
Delosangeles, 25, confessed upon being questioned by police but told them about Connors' role that night as well. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is expected to be sentenced on July 24 to 15 years to life in prison.
Connors maintained his defense at trial: that he wasn't there that night. Jurors deliberated for about a day and half before returning the verdict indicating they didn't believe him.
Connors' attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.