Anger, tears follow killings
Family enraged at arraignment of Albany man, once a friend, but now charged with 3 murders
By ROBERT GAVIN and DAVID FILKINS, Staff writer
First published: Friday, February 1, 2008, Times Union
ALBANY -- Jovan Underdue went to 190 Delaware Ave. on Tuesday afternoon to smoke marijuana, drink French vodka and hang out with his "best friend" -- Bobby "Bop" Jones.
One day later, the 31-year-old Underdue was behind bars, charged with firing gunshot blasts into the heads of Jones and two others at point-blank range, Albany's first triple murder in more than 13 years.
"I just lost control -- there is no sugarcoating it," Underdue allegedly told Albany police while being questioned for almost two hours Thursday. "I took three lives. Just because I let the little things in my life ... I let it get the best of me."
After a night of drinking, smoking pot and listening to music, Underdue began to think about his life, he told police in his statement. He thought about the death of his mother and whether his life would ever turn around.
In a fit of rage, he eventually killed Jones, Victor Anderson, 26, and Keynon Hankins, 16, according to the graphic three-page statement to police obtained Thursday by the Times Union.
While sitting alone at a table at about midnight, Underdue told police he shot an unsuspecting Jones in the back of the head as he sat in a chair, Anderson as he rushed into the room to see what happened and Hankins as he lay curled on the floor.
In another room, Jones' 3-year-old son -- Underdue's godson -- slept.
"I guess I was getting mad and I got into a zone," Underdue said in the statement. "I kept on getting madder and madder."
The series of events that allegedly led Underdue to murder are detailed in the suspect's signed statement. In it, Underdue said the night began as follows:
Underdue met Jones at his job and the two went to 190 Delaware Ave., where Jones lived with his girlfriend, Kihra Hankins, her brother, Keynon Hankins, and Jones' son.
Jones gave Underdue money to buy an $18 bottle of vodka. Underdue and Kihra Hankins started drinking. She and Jones then left to go to the hospital because Jones had a toothache, but they returned after two hours because they didn't feel like waiting.
Underdue and Keynon Hankins watched the film "Coming to America." Underdue, Jones and Kihra spent two hours smoking marijuana until Anderson, of Morton Avenue, stopped by.
Kihra Hankins went to her cleaning job at the College of Saint Rose at about 10 p.m.
As the friends drank and smoked, Underdue began to think about his life, becoming angrier. He began to sweat. He rose, walked toward Jones, who was sitting in a chair facing away from him, and pulled a .38-caliber pistol from his waistband. He raised the gun with his right hand, pointed it at the back of Jones' head and fired.
The noise startled Anderson, who walked into the dining room. Underdue shot him in the head from two feet away.
"Oh my God, what am I doing," Underdue thought as he walked into the living room, where Keynon Hankins was playing a video game. Hankins saw the gun and curled up on the floor. Underdue approached the teen and pushed him down. Then he pointed the gun at Hankins' head from a few inches away and pulled the trigger.
Underdue walked back toward the dining room, slipped and fell, one hand landing in a pool of blood. He stood up, grabbed his vodka and walked to a girlfriend's house on State Street. There, he refused to answer her questions. He took off his clothes, including a blood-soaked T-shirt, and slept.
He woke at about 8 a.m., tossed the gun under the bed and hid the shirt in a garbage bag in the kitchen. Underdue went home, washed his clothes and sneakers and called a friend, who drove him to the crime scene. He watched the police activity from a distance and went to another location before returning home an hour later. A detective called him soon after, asking him to give a statement. He agreed to meet police, but not before moving his clothes from the washer to the dryer.
Albany police spokesman James Miller sent Capital Region media the following e-mail at 7:53 a.m. Thursday:
"There will be an arraignment of Jovan Underdue for 3cts of Murder at 8:30 AM at Albany City Criminal Court in connection with the homicides at 190 Delaware Avenue."
The message reached family and friends of the victims at about 8 a.m.
By 8:30, relatives and friends began piling into Room 1 at City Court on Morton Avenue.
The family had last gathered on Jan. 15 for Bobby Jones' birthday. Underdue was an invited guest.
On Thursday, Tanika Young, Bobby Jones' relative, sat in the front row. Three women consoled Young, who took her hands off her face and examined the 8-foot high plexiglass wall separating spectators from the court.
"I want him to see us," Young said.
"I know babe, I know," a woman said.
"I want him to know how many lives he's hurt. He's lucky as hell that wall is right there."
At 8:40 a.m., Jones' aunt, Sherry Jones, walked into the courtroom aided by a cane.
"He killed them for nothing," Sherry Jones said. "He took their souls."
By 8:50 a.m., more than 50 supporters had filled the bench seats or stood in the back. Two officers led Underdue into the court from a back room moments later. He was handcuffed and dressed in a red jumpsuit. The crowd began to murmur.
Sherry Jones stood and approached the glass. She tried to look around the frosted panes. A police officer stopped her.
"He killed my nephew!" Jones screamed.
"I understand," the officer said.
"He killed them kids!"
The crowd started to shout.
"Why'd you do it, Jo?"
"You won't get away with it!"
"You're (expletive) dead!"
Visiting Judge Kenneth Connelly stood and screamed for quiet. He threatened to clear the room.
Underdue was arraigned on three counts of first-degree murder, robbery and possessing a loaded weapon. The judge sent him to the Albany County jail without bail. He is scheduled to return for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.
As Underdue was led away, the suddenly enraged crowd rushed forward. Six officers struggled to contain them as screams filled the room. One relative banged on the glass with both fists. It shook. The crying and screaming continued in the lobby before police forced most of the crowd outside.
Sherry Jones, Tanika Young and others held up photos of their slain relative to television cameras.
Underdue told police he got the gun off the street several months ago and had shot a gun "a lot."
"He was so mean, so ugly," Sherry Jones said.
"He deserves to die," a woman said.
"Jovan had nothing, and we comforted that man," the aunt said. "We fed him and took him in. Bobby was a good man and now he's dead."
About 75 family members and friends gathered outside the home Thursday evening to hold a candlelight vigil.
"We are all suffering tonight a great, great loss," said Jones' sister, Evelyn. "They are all angels."
The Rev. Mackey Robinson told those gathered: "This is not the work of God. This is the work of the thief, the devil. Love will never fail. God said he'll never leave you, he'll never forget you."
Jones' sister then sang for her only brother. When her voice broke and she paused, sobbing "Oh, Bobby," the crowd called out: "God, give her strength."
When she finished, she managed a slight smile. "Bobby," she said, "I hope I made you proud. I love you, Bobby."
Gavin can be reached at 434-2403 or by e-mail at rgavin@ timesunion.com. Tim O'Brien contributed to this story.