Prosecutors say he was a drug dealer who got caught up in a deadly setup for a small amount of crack cocaine.
"We certainly do not condone any actions of dealing with drugs, but the fact of the matter is someone was shot and killed and we're going to prosecute that case to the fullest extent," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.
Friends of 34-year-old Abdul Clay, who everyone calls Boo, described him as a passionate cook and a loving father. They say they're devastated by his murder.
"Like she said yesterday I can't believe I'm never going to see him walk towards me again. I'm never going to hear his voice again," said Jennifer Andrews, a friend of Clay.
Police say Clay was gunned down by Robert Dougherty, 38, of Winooski. He's being charged with first-degree murder for shooting Clay outside the City's Edge condos Monday. Dougherty pleaded not guilty but prosecutors say they're not backing down from a felony murder conviction.
"It happened in an area where young families live, that people frequent. So this goes to the core of public safety," Donovan said.
According to court papers, Clay went into the City's Edge condos to get crack cocaine from a resident who lived there. He was planning to sell it to Dougherty and his roommates, who were waiting in the parking lot. Police say when Clay returned to the car driven by Krystal Tyler, 27, Dougherty held a gun to Clay's head and refused to pay. Police say that's when Jacob Beane, 21, dragged Clay out of the car and watched Dougherty shoot Clay twice.
Beane sobbed as he entered the courtroom. He and Tyler are charged with assault and robbery. Although they denied the charges, police say the pair admitted to planning the robbery in a desperate attempt to score drugs.
"We're seeing young men who are so desperate to feed their addiction that they engage in a conspiracy to rob a drug dealer, but they're also carrying guns," Donovan said.
Clay's friends call it a senseless killing and they want justice.
"They can't take back what they did. They could never take that back. They took her soul mate. They took a father, a son, a brother, a friend. There are so many people who are affected by this. It hurts," Andrews said.
Dougherty and Beane are being held without bail. The judge set Tyler's bail at $50,000-- double what state prosecutors were asking for.