ITHACA, N.Y. — Defendant Roy Clements Jr. took the stand Thursday where he adamantly denied killing a Newfield man last December and said that it was not a robbery that took place the morning Camden Rundell died, but a business deal.
Clements is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and fourth-degree degree conspiracy. Prosecutors say Clements murdered Rundell while laying on top of him, restraining him while three other people stole marijuana plants from his home. But Clements has maintained his innocence.
Clements said he’d been friends with and occasionally worked for Rundell’s former roommate Gabe Damiani. Damiani and Rundell allegedly ran an illegal marijuana business together and their relationship had reportedly hit a rough patch.
According to a text message sent from to Damiani to Jamie Gerhart, who is also being charged with murder in the incident, Rundell had physically threatened Damiani’s mother.
That, Clements said, is why Damiani moved out of their shared home at 221 Burdge Hill Road in Newfield, where marijuana was being grown in the basement of their home.
Clements said, “So were we going to try to get these plants (a portion of which allegedly belonged to Damiani)…so they could close out the business and not associate with each other.”
Clements said Gerhart was responsible for getting in touch with Rundell and ensuring that the business dealing was cleared.
Clements also asked a friend, Dennis Lampila, to help move the plants because Clements had been to see a doctor twice within about a week before the incident due to a persistent intestinal issue. Lampila accepted a plea deal for first-degree robbery in early October in exchange for his cooperation with the prosecution and law enforcement officials.
“…My body was not strong enough to be able to transport the plants at the time,” Clements said.
His former girlfriend Melissa Minnick also testified that due to Clements’ health issues, he was too physically weak to lift his own DJ equipment and she had to help him lift his equipment. Minnick pleaded guilty to felony fourth-degree conspiracy in August after she allegedly purchased items for Clements that were used in the robbery. Part of her plea deal was that she cooperate with the prosecution and law enforcement officials.
According to Clements, a lot of what the prosecution says is evidence is actually coincidence.
For instance, the prosecution pointed to video of him purchasing three ski masks and a pry bar at Walmart. Ski masks were used during the alleged robbery though the prosecution says Clements left them in a different vehicle the night of the incident and had to ask Minnick to buy more ski masks later.
However, Clements says the first three ski masks he bought were for him and his son – an extra masks he says he bought so his son could decide which style he wanted.
In another surveillance video, Clements is seen at the Speedway on Elmira Road the morning Rundell died. In the video, Clements is in a black suburban when a cab pulls up next to the vehicle. Coincidentally, Rundell and his girlfriend get out of the cab and buy things inside the gas station.
The prosecution claims that Clements and Lampila has been “hunting” for Rundell, saw him get out of the cab, drove away, and then quickly looped back to the gas station to maintain a visual on Rundell.
Clements said he and Lampila never saw Rundell at the gas station. They looped back into the gas station, he said, for a hot dog.
“I came back because Dennis wanted to get a hot dog because he noticed mine looked kind of tasty,” Clements said.
After the gas station, Colleen McColgin, who is also charged with murder in the case, bought tarps to wrap up the marijuana plants, and McColgin and Gerhart want to Rundell’s home.
Clements said Gerhart was supposed to make sure, in person, that Rundell was okay with the business deal — handing over some of the marijuana plants to Damiani.
“I wasn’t that familiar with Cam, so I wasn’t just going to show up to his house if it wasn’t confirmed,” Clements said.
After an exchange of text messages with Gerhart, Clements finally goes to Rundell’s house with Lampila.
Once there, Clements said he and Lampila met in the yard and began talking.
“I didn’t understand why he would be threatening Gabe or making threats with Gabe…and Cam got a little upset,” Clement said. “What happened then is Cam was kind of in disbelief that I was helping him (Damiani) transport the plants. He wasn’t aware it was going to be me.”
Clements had been an acquaintance of Rundell’s and been to the Burdge Hill home multiple times to see Damiani.
So Rundell allegedly swung at Clements with a beer bottle in his hand and the two of them eventually stumbled to the ground during a scuffle. Clements said Rundell, who was intoxicated and had a .15 BAC at the time of his death, landed face down on the ground.
Clements said, “…At that point I got up fairly quickly. He got up rather slowly. We were still conversing back and forth about the situation.”
Eventually, the marijuana plants were wrapped up and loaded into the black suburban and, Clements said, they left the home to drop the plants off at another friend’s home
He said the last time he saw Rundell was when he backed out of Rundell’s driveway.
“I could see him (in the yard) sort of gesturing…to Ms. (Leah) Armstrong, I believe…as if he was still upset,” Clements said.
He said he learned about Rundell’s death the following day, after reading it in the news.
Closing statements wrapped up Wednesday morning and the jury got the case Wednesday afternoon. They’ll decide if Clements is guilty of the crimes.
Featured Photo: Roy Clements Jr. during opening statements Thursday. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice.