Innocent 23-year-old killed in major drug operation, defendant sentenced to 25 years

Man sentenced in killing of innocent man in York County

YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - A 43-year-old man is being sent to prison for 25 years for his role in a massive drug operation that left an innocent man dead.

Jerry Cousar pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, attempted murder, and two counts of possession of weapon in commission of a violent crime Thursday morning in York County. He was originally charged with the murder of 23-year-old Angel Vega in November of 2017 by the York County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Solicitor Willy Thompson told the court that Cousar had picked up a package for co-defendant Trenyatta Jondae Massey Jr.

The package was delivered to Massey’s grandmother’s house on Clear Run Road. Thompson says the package included nearly 2 kilos of cocaine and a large amount of marijuana. Detective Joey Wallace with the York County Sheriff’s Office says the value of the cocaine could be anywhere from $32,000 to $40,000 per kilo. Detective Wallace says it is often broken up and sold on the streets for much more.

Thompson says Cousar picked the package up and was supposed to deliver it to Massey later that day.

Jerry Cousar (left) and co-defendent Trenyatta Jondae Massey (right). (York County Sheriff's Office)
Jerry Cousar (left) and co-defendent Trenyatta Jondae Massey (right). (York County Sheriff's Office)

“But Cousar was careless in the handling of those drugs and it was ultimately stolen by an acquaintance of his, who he knew as ‘Cuba’,” Thompson said.

The package was delivered from a group of people in California. Thompson says it is not the first time Massey had major amounts of drugs delivered from California to his grandmother’s home.

In a panicked state over the stolen drugs, Cousar called Massey. Massey later notified the people in California about the drugs being stolen.

“It became clear that if they did not recover the drugs, they would face dire consequences,” Thompson said.

“I think they were pretty dangerous people,” Deputy Public Defender Bryson Barrowclough said about the alleged dealers in California.

Cousar and Massey then went looking for Cuba. Cousar was armed with a gun. They went to a shop in the Catawba area of York County where Cuba was known to frequent. Thompson says several Hispanic men worked on cars at the shop.

Cuba was not at the shop and the men working there told Massey and Cousar they didn’t know where Cuba was. Cousar and Massey looked for him elsewhere. Thompson says they Facetimed Cuba several times.

“He demanded the drugs back from Cuba and threatened to kill him if he didn’t get them back,“ Thompson said.

Eventually, Cousar went back to the car shop to look for Cuba again. Thompson said when the men didn’t tell him where Cuba was, Cousar being shooting. Angel Vega, 23, was killed from one bullet hitting him in the chest.

“I want to point out that the autopsy showed no drugs or alcohol in his system and he appears to be an innocent victim in all of this,” Thompson said.

Vega’s family was in the courtroom Thursday. His parents did not wish to speak to WBTV, but did have Thompson read a statement on their behalf in court. It read in part, “This has been very hard for both of them, but especially his mother. She was the last to speak with Angel.”

Thompson says Cuba eventually went to CMPD where he turned in the drugs and explained what happened. He told police he feared for his life.

Cousar’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Bryson Barrowclough told the court that Cousar has a long history of mental illness, specifically suffering from schizophrenia. A forensic psychiatrist determined he was fit to stand trial and understand the plea deal he was taking.

Still, Barrowclough says his mental history played a role in his action the night of November 3rd.

“I think it was more like his brain short circuit, like a computer malfunctioning, too much stress and he reacted rashly to relieve that stress,” Barrowclough said.

Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Leonard Mulbry said Cousar is taking extremely high doses of a long-acting powerful psychotic medicine. Dr. Mulbry says the medication works well, but if it isn’t taken or it wears off, Cousar’s mental stability wavers.

“His thinking very significantly deteriorates,” Dr. Mulbry said in court. “It becomes disorganized. He has trouble thinking about consequences. He has trouble curbing impulses and behaviors.”

Cousar was also abusing crack cocaine at the time of the shooting, according to his attorney. Dr. Mulbry says illegal drugs will exacerbate the symptoms of his mental illness.

Judge Daniel Hall accepted the negotiated plea of 25 years in prison.

Massey’s case is stilling pending, but Thompson says he is in the custody of the Department of Corrections for an unrelated case.

Thompson says federal investigators have opened a case related to the people accused of sending the drugs to Massey from California.

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