A Jefferson Parish jury on Thursday night (Sept. 1) deliberated 45 minutes in finding Jalen Harvey guilty of killing Joseph Vindel, a New Orleans man who was trying to sell his dirt bike through an online marketplace app last year when he was shot.
Harvey, 22, of Harvey, is guilty as charged of the first-degree murder of Vindel. The 29-year-old real estate agent was shot five or six times while sitting in the driver’s seat of his sports utility vehicle outside a West Bank apartment complex on the morning of March 7, 2021.
Vindel advertised his dirt bike’s sale through the OfferUp marketplace app. Harvey, who used a fake name and phone number on the app, responded to the advertisement with plans to use movie prop cash, or “play money,” to purchase the motorcycle while armed with a semiautomatic pistol.
Vindel towed the dirt bike on a trailer from his Uptown home to the West Bank. Through text messages, Harvey gave Vindel several meeting locations before directing him to the 2100 block of Manhattan Boulevard.
Harvey’s first gunshot struck Vindel on the right side of his face, causing a nonfatal wound. Harvey continued shooting, striking Vindel in the rear of his right shoulder, neck and to the back of his head. Vindel also suffered a gunshot wound to left hand.
His wounds were consistent with his being shot in the face and then turning away defensively as Harvey continued shooting him through the front passenger’s side window, according to expert testimony.
Vindel brought his pistol with him to make the transaction, but a round was never chambered, meaning he was not prepared to fire it. Alleging he was defending himself when he began shooting, Harvey said that Vindel pointed the pistol at him during the transaction and held it in his left hand. That was an impossibility, given the gunshot injury to Vindel’s left hand.
Evidence shows that Vindel’s heart was still pumping blood when Harvey dragged the body between the front seats to the back seat floorboard. Harvey then drove around the city in Vindel’s SUV for more than an hour.
In testimony Friday, Harvey admitted to dousing Vindel’s upper body with gasoline. He asserted he did so to kill DNA.
After leaving the body and SUV in the 2300 block of Coliseum Street in the Garden District, Harvey drove Vindel’s dirt bike back to his West Bank apartment.
A missing person’s investigation began on the night of March 7, 2021, more than 10 hours after Vindel left home to sell the dirt bike. After a search that included the New Orleans Police Department and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Vindel’s body and SUV were located early the following morning.
Detectives found Harvey through investigating his correspondence with Vindel in the marketplace app. They spotted Vindel’s motorcycle at Harvey’s apartment.
In addition to first-degree murder, Harvey was convicted as charged of obstruction of justice and monetary instrument abuse.
The obstruction charge stems from his eliminating evidence to hinder the investigation, including driving Vindel’s body to the Garden District. Vindel’s wallet and cell phone were never found.
The monetary instrument abuse charge involves his use of the movie prop money in the transaction. Detectives also found more than 175 fake $100 bills in his apartment.
The jury returned with its unanimous verdicts just after 9 p.m. Judge E. Adrian Adams of the 24th Judicial District Court is scheduled to sentence Harvey on Oct. 6. Harvey faces a mandatory life sentence in prison.
Assistant District Attorneys Lindsay Truhe and Zach Grate prosecuted the case.