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Murder trial: Victim’s roommates testify

A home invasion murder that could send two local men to prison for life without opportunity for parole, interrupted an off-campus party thrown by Gordon students and attended by neighbors in the Westchester Heights subdivision, according to testimony at a pretrial hearing Feb. 8. *************** ©The Herald Gazette/ This information may not be reprinted, broadcast or distributed electronically in any form or fashion without express consent. For reprint permission, e-mail *************** Cousins Shameik Spinks and Lekievius Eleby each face two counts of felony murder plus numerous additional charges stemming from the Dec. 5, 2010 slaying of Danavan Bussey. A third defendant in the case, Bryce Arsenio Smith, affirmed his intention to testify against his former partners in crime in exchange for a reduced sentence at the hearing. Spinks, who complained about circuit public defender Wanda Johnson at his last court appearance, is now represented by attorney Dale T. Preiser at taxpayer expense. Prior to testimony, assistant district attorney Scott Johnston agreed to a stipulation that the prosecution would not introduce testimony that marijuana was found in Eleby’s home at the time of his arrest. The hearing was set to bring defense challenges to eyewitness identifications before Judge Tommy Wilson and put Bussey’s former roommates Tyrone Holmes and Dewayne Johnson on the stand. Testimony indicated there was a raucous party going on at the home in the hours before the killing which included drinking games and drug use. Both testified that the home had been broken into three times prior to the killing and that Eleby was suspected of the crime. At least two of those burglaries were not reported to police because Bussey was selling marijuana from the home, Johnson told the court. Holmes was first on the stand. He testified the party was thrown because the roommates were leaving the home due to the break-ins in which two flat screen TVs, a laptop, X-Box and PlayStation, along with drugs, were stolen. Holmes and Johnson and three females including Ardrana Pate were in the living room playing a drinking game called ‘˜Ricky Bobby’ at the time of the invasion. Holmes testified he drank one and a half shots of tequila and that three or four marijuana joints were passed around among the partygoers but that he did not smoke any. Holmes said two of the invaders got close enough to touch him and one stayed at the door acting as a lookout. He said he immediately recognized both Eleby and Spinks, who were wearing dark clothes, hoodies and bandannas across their faces, though he knew Spinks only as Eleby’s cousin. Holmes testified he met Eleby, who lived just down the street, ‘at the club’ and that Eleby hung out at Gordon though he was not enrolled. He said Eleby had previously ‘chilled’ with the roommates in the house where he had lived for three years. He also described a run-in with Spinks on the afternoon prior to the shooting which occurred under the bridge on Aldora Street when a carload of partygoers were returning from buying wings at Reliable Mart. Spinks was walking when the car pulled up on him and he and Bussey exchanged words. ’Dan previously had fought with Kiev. (Spinks) said ‘˜I ain’t gonna fight you, I’m gonna shoot you’. Dan said, ‘˜A man fights’. (Spinks) said ‘˜I’m gonna shoot you’, Holmes said. He also said Bussey, who came into the living room from a back room after hearing the commotion resulting from the intrusion, struggled with Spinks, who was armed with a shotgun, for control of the weapon. ’Dan said ‘˜Hold on. Chill out’. Then they shot him,’ Holmes said. Under a withering cross examination by Eleby’s attorney Pam Bettis, a stuttering and stammering Holmes admitted he had a marijuana charge pending here that was dropped when a codefendant took the rap. She also elicited an admission from Holmes that he had done two months in jail in Henry County on another charge. Bettis noted Holmes, in his original statement to police, identified Eleby as ‘˜Kevian’ and Spinks as his ‘˜17-year-old cousin from up north’. Holmes also told police Eleby had a pistol in each hand, she said. There were indications Bussey may have armed himself and that the second weapon was taken from him before or after his chin was blown off by the shotgun blast. Bettis also noted Holmes did not use the name Lekievius until after he was shown a photo of Eleby by police investigator Al Moltrum. Under cross examination by Preiser, Holmes again laid out Spinks’ threat from the afternoon before the shooting. ‘(Spinks) said ‘˜I’m 17. I’m from up north. I came down cause Kiev wanted me to handle something for him. I ain’t gonna fight you, I’m gonna shoot you,’ Holmes said. On redirect from Johnson, Holmes pointed out Eleby as the man who entered the home with a revolver and Spinks as the one who came in with a shotgun. Previous testimony has been that Bussey was shot once in the leg with .22 caliber pistol and once in the face with a 12 gauge shotgun. Johnson was next on the stand. He said he had two water cups full of straight vodka while playing the drinking game but had not smoked marijuana. When grilled by Bettis, Johnson admitted he was drunk at the time of the crime. He, too, testified haltingly and had distinct difficulty articulating details of the shooting. ’I was on the sofa. I heard a knock on the door and answered it. They had guns pointed in my face. There were three people at the door,’ Johnson told the court. He said he was familiar with Eleby and Spinks and that Eleby and Bussey had fought in the street for about 10 minutes about a month and a half before the shooting. ’I knew who they were. I could automatically tell. I had hung out with Lekievius. He started coming around campus. I saw their faces clearly,’ Johnson said. ‘Lekievius had Tyrone over a table with a gun to his head.’ He also pointed out Eleby and Spinks in the courtroom as the killers. Bettis noted Johnson’s original statement to police was the attackers rushed in with a handgun, a shotgun and an AK-47 assault rifle and that they fired a warning shot – perhaps the shot that hit Bussey in the leg. ’You told police you saw the handgun fire twice. You never mentioned Lekievius’ name in your interview of which the transcript is 23 pages long but you had known him since 2009,’ Bettis challenged. ’My mind wasn’t thinking right,’ Johnson replied. Moltrum took the stand and testified he showed Holmes a driver’s license photo of Eleby to clarify the situation in the chaotic hours after the shooting. ’Holmes kept saying ‘˜Kevian and Kevian’s cousin’. I wanted to clarify if we were talking about Levievius Eleby or Kelis Collier. Officers at the scene had turned up the name Lekievius,’ Moltrum said. Bettis hammered him over not developing a photo lineup of multiple subjects for identification purposes. ‘You brought up Lekievius Eleby’s name and Tyrone latched onto it,’ Bettis argued. Moltrum countered that Holmes was consistent and said he could identify both men. Judge Wilson issued no ruling on allowing Holmes and Johnson to testify at the upcoming trials which are set to begin Feb. 27. He gave both the prosecution and defense the opportunity to provide him with case law supporting their arguments and promised a ruling later this week. During breaks, Spinks could be observed trying to converse with Eleby. Only once did Eleby turn and glare at his cousin over his shoulder. Both men were shackled at the wrists and ankles. They appeared wearing jail coveralls and jail-issue shower shoes in the courtroom where security was tight.

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