Welch Pleads Not Guilty in Shooting Death of Seton Hall University Student
Family speaks out on murder
In his first court appearance since his arrest, Nicholas Welch, 25, of East Orange, pleaded not guilty Wednesday morning to the shooting death of Seton Hall University sophomore Jessica Moore.
He's been charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, burglary and additional weapons offenses, according to Robert D. Laurino, acting Essex County prosecutor. The burglary charge is because Welch allegedly forced his way back into the house after he initially left. The charges were read by Romesh Sukhdeo, Essex County assistant prosecutor.
"This is the beginning of what will be a long process for the family," said Laurino.
Moore's aunt, who declined to give her name to the media, said words cannot express the family's feelings.
"While there is the feeling of a huge hole in our heart, in our soul at the present time, there never could truly be a void, for she is now and forever will be a part of our souls and a part of our being," she said. "Just how she was created in love, her life was given in love."
She described Moore as "a beautiful reflection" as she broke down in tears.
"All those who ever had the distinct pleasure of her presence, know her beautiful array of sunshine she was in life and she continues to shine even brighter in her passing," she said. "Jessica Ann Moore is a beautiful reflection of self, a beautiful reflection of our family, a beautiful reflection of her generation, a beautiful reflection of humanity and most, of all, a beautiful reflection of god. ... God has simply given her wings ... thank you Jessica for sharing your wings."
A woman outside the media waiting area at the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, who identified herself only as "Ebony" and said she was the mother of Welch's two kids, sobbed and turned away when approached by media.
Moore, 19, a psychology major from Virginia, was shot shortly after midnight Saturday at an off-campus, fraternity party on South Clinton Street in East Orange. She died around 3:20 p.m. that day at University Hospital in Newark.
Authorities said Welch supposedly was refused entry into the party and later returned with a handgun, shooting Moore, as well as four others. Two are Seton Hall students, one a New Jersey Institute of Technology graduate and another a New York City Resident.
Laurino said the search continues for Marcus Bascus, 19, of East Orange, the second suspect in the shooting. Laurino said his office is working with the U.S. Marshals Service in the search. He did not indicate whether the search has expanded beyond New Jersey.
Laurino said the county has filed a motion to compel Welch to give a DNA sample to compare with blood evidence found at the scene as a result of a struggle. Welch's attorney, Gerald M. Saluti, said he would not contest that request.
Welch remains in jail at Essex County Correctional Facility with a $2 million bail.
Saluti indicated in court he might seek to file a motion to reduce the bail amount. Laurino said the county would oppose such a motion.
Funeral services for Moore are set for 11 a.m. Saturday at J. M. Wilkerson Funeral Establishment in Petersburg, Va., according to Seton Hall University information.
The university said it will have buses that will leave campus between midnight and 1 a.m., Saturday, arriving at Virginia State University for the services.
The family has requested students wear the university's colors to the funeral.