NEWARK, N.J. – A New Jersey man charged with shooting five people — one fatally — at an off-campus party near Seton Hall University over the weekend pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance on Wednesday.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and with light facial hair visible, Nicholas Welch answered only "Yes" to whether he understood the charges against him. The charges include murder, conspiracy and weapons offenses; attempted murder charges are also expected to be filed.
Welch's attorney, Gerald Saluti, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf during the 15-minute hearing and asked that his client remain in protective custody in jail. Following that, Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Romesh Sukhdeo presented Saluti with request to take a DNA swab from Welch. Saluti said he would not fight the request.
Bail was set at $2 million.
Police arrested Welch on Monday night at his house on the same East Orange street where the deadly shooting happened.
Police said Welch tried to enter a fraternity party, was refused admittance and then returned moments later with a gun and started firing. Jessica Moore, a 19-year-old honors student from Disputanta, Va., who was majoring in psychology at Seton Hall, was shot and died later that day.
The injuries to the other four victims weren't considered life-threatening. Two of the injured were 19-year-old women who go to Seton Hall, and one was a 25-year-old man who attends the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The other was a 20-year-old man from New York who is not a student.
Authorities are still searching for a second man, Marcus Bascus, who they say provided the gun to Welch.
Saluti said he was retained by Welch's family on Tuesday night, and had only spoken to his client for 30 minutes.
"I have no information about the case whatsoever," Saluti said after the hearing. "I can't even tell if my guy is the shooter at this point."
Welch's attorney said he was awaiting information about witness statements concerning Bascus.
"I'm interested to find out what the interplay is between them," Saluti said, declining to comment on whether Welch was at the party.
"I think he's still in shock over the whole thing," Saluti said of Welch, an unmarried father of two.
Seton Hall student Derel Stroud, 24, said he saw the suspected gunman as he went to the house to pick up two girls to drive them home.
After an altercation inside the home, Stroud said he saw a man with a beard walk from the house toward another man standing on the curb. Stroud said he heard the bearded man say, "Give me the burner," which Stroud took as slang for a gun.
With his friends in the car, Stroud said, he drove away but heard two gunshots in the distance.
Seton Hall is a private Catholic university in nearby South Orange, about 15 miles west of New York City.