Lee, who graduated last year from Montgomery Blair High School, was found by a patrol officer responding to a call about an unconscious person lying on a sidewalk in the Brightwood neighborhood. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
At a hearing Friday in D.C. Superior Court, nearly three rows of Lee’s family, including her parents, grandmother and sister, crowded on one side of the courtroom for Buckley’s preliminary hearing. Buckley has been held in the D.C. jail since the shooting. He was escorted into the courtroom wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and had a tattoo of a star on his right cheek.
Authorities believe robbery was the motive in the killing. Homicide detectives say they were able to link Lee’s death to Buckley with her black iPhone 4, which remained powered on hours after the shooting. Authorities found Lee’s phone, along with a Ruger 9mm semiautomatic handgun, in Buckley’s apartment about five blocks from where Lee was killed.
Police did not say in court Friday whether the gun matched the one used to kill Lee.
Court records show that Buckley gave inconsistent and contradictory accounts to detectives who questioned him. He initially denied knowing Lee and denied possessing an iPhone. He then told detectives that he purchased an iPhone from someone who sold it, along with an iPod, on the street for $40.
He then acknowledged knowing Lee and said he met up with her at the bus stop and tried to persuade her to have sex. When Lee refused, he walked away, leaving her at the bus stop alone, he said. He told detectives that he then heard a gunshot, looked back and saw an unidentified man dressed in black running from the scene.
One unidentified witness told detectives that Buckley had showed off the iPhone less than 10 minutes after the shooting. The witness told detectives that Buckley said the phone was locked but that he knew a place he could go and pay to have it unlocked.
D.C. homicide detective James Wilson testified that detectives found Buckley’s cellphone number in Lee’s phone and that there were 11 calls between the two on Jan. 24 and Jan. 25.
Under cross-examination by Buckley’s attorney, Jason Downs of the District’s Public Defender Service, Wilson said police had neither witnesses to the shooting nor direct evidence linking Buckley to Lee’s death.
Prosecutors also said they believe Buckley had cut off his GPS ankle bracelet days before Lee’s death. He was ordered to wear the monitoring device after a 2009 burglary conviction.
Judge Russell F. Canan ordered Buckley to remain in jail until his trial, which is scheduled for 2014.
Friday’s hearing was overwhelming for Lee’s mother, Nikki Coleman. Coleman left the courtroom in tears, but she returned halfway through the proceedings. “I’m still grieving. No mother should lose her child,” she said after the hearing. She described her daughter as a hard worker who worked at the Starbucks in the Giant supermarket in downtown Silver Spring.
Coleman said Lee’s grandmother had no idea Lee had left the house the morning she was killed. Coleman said she had repeatedly warned her two daughters about meeting unknown men, whom Coleman called “stray cats,” on the Internet.