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Witnesses testify in murder trial

Benbow one of four suspects in shootings

Victims of a home invasion style armed robbery a year ago that left one man dead and two others wounded testified in court Wednesday, describing fear, what it felt like to be shot and sharing memories of when Marcus Maurice Benbow and three others stormed into an Orange Street home and began firing.
    Benbow, 40, Waycross, is on trial  this week for the murder of Corey Oneil Walker, who was 21 when he died Oct. 14, 2006 from gunshot wounds. Benbow and three others were arrested on murder, armed robbery and several other felony charges related to what investigators have said was a drug deal gone bad.
    Several witnesses testified, but denied knowledge of cocaine, crack cocaine, Ecstasy and marijuana found in the home. However, witnesses did testify about one suspect, Rico Mikell, 30, Grady Street Extension, coming to the home looking for drugs to buy.
    In opening arguments, Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Jarriel  told jurors they would learn about "things you would not expect to see or hear in Statesboro, Ga." and told how Benbow shoved a gun barrel through a cracked door and told a victim "You know what it is."
    "Marcus Benbow went to Orange Street on a mission ... money. That was their sole purpose," she said.
    All four suspects are being tried separately. One, Kendall Worthy, 20, Waycross, pled guilty to charges earlier this year and is expected to testify today or Friday.
    "These four men had a plan. They functioned as a team," Jarriel told the jury.
    Mikell knew the victims and originated the plan, making phone calls and organizing a quest for drugs. Benbow was one of two who fired shots. He had a hand gun.
    "What happened was very brutal, like you'd see in a movie," she said.
    All witnesses testifying echoed Jarriel's description of how Benbow knocked on the door and forced a pistol inside when victim James Williams, 44, cracked it open. He pointed the gun at Williams, who grabbed the barrel and began fighting with Benbow.
    Worthy stood behind Benbow with an assault rifle and fired a shot, then he and Benbow fired several rounds while victims scampered for cover, she said.
    Williams suffered a shot to  a kneecap by Worthy, then another by Benbow. Benbow fired a third round into Williams' knee as he left the scene, Williams  later testified.
    Chalandria McClouden, Williams' niece, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the back and legs, Jarriel said.
    Public defender Steven Yeckel told jurors "We weren't there. We don't know. What we (Jarriel and himself during opening arguments) say is not evidence," and he reminded jurors to consider only evidence during the trial.
    "Marcus Benbow was not the person responsible," he said, promising to mount "an aggressive defense" and claiming Benbow was not even at the scene - stating he was in Waycross that night.
    Yeckel said the prosecutors built the case on what Worthy said in his confessions.
    Statesboro Police Det. Keith Holloway, Det. Ken Scott and Det. Tommy Brown all testified about responding to the scene and going to photograph and interview victims at both East Georgia Regional Medical Center and Memorial Health University Medical Center, where James Williams and Chalandria McClouden each spent seven weeks. Williams, who appeared in court on crutches,  later testified he had eight surgeries. McClouden, who spoke softly and said it hurt her to talk loudly, said she suffered four surgeries.
    
 Witnesses testify


     Williams took the stand and told how he went to "Gordon Street, in Blackbottom," to play dominoes. Then the group he was with began playing a dice game called C-Low. Around 11 p.m. the game moved to a home on Orange Street, William's sister's home.
    About 45 minutes later, Rico Mikell came knocking and asked to speak to Walker outside, he said. Walker returned a few minutes later and told the group Mikell and some friends "wants to spend $3,500."
    The assumption was Mikell wanted to buy drugs.
    A while later, someone else came to the door and Williams answered, asking through the door who the visitor was. "He mumbled some name I didn't understand ... I cracked the door to peep and see who it was .. and he stuck a gun through the door," he said.
    Williams grabbed the gun barrel and began struggling with the assailant, whom he later identified as Benbow. He said he remembers two  men stepping over him to enter the house, and Benbow shooting him again as he left.
    He also said Benbow bit him on the wrist during the struggle.
    Twala Williams, James Williams' sister, gave the same testimony and told how she hid in the kitchen, where she was warming food, when she heard gunshots.
    Jarriel played a 911 call where Twala Williams called for help.
    "There was a robbery ... and some people got shot... people are shot. People are shot. I'm telling you, people are shot," she said during the call.
    Ms. Williams testified she did know about the marijuana in the house because she stepped on a bag after the shooting, and tried flushing it down the toilet, but "Chalandria asked 'you going to do all that or are you going to call 911?'"
    She pointed at Benbow in  the courtroom and said she saw him picking up money from their dice game before he fled from the house.
    Chalandria McClouden told how she ran when the shots rang out but was struck several times in the back and legs.
    She said a great deal was hazy due to her injuries, but "I remember seeing Rico's face in the door. He just looked in and started running."
     All the victims knew Rico Mikell from the neighborhood.
    Jeffrey Eason was the last witness to testify Wednesday, telling how he and another victim, Rico Smith, hid in a closet during the shooting. He said when it was over, he had to step over Walker to exit the house.
    Both Twala Williams and Eason admitted to lying to police in the beginning. Williams said she was scared and told police she was not in the house at the time of the shootings. Eason said he was walking from Foxridge Apartments when he heard shots fired.
    "I was scared," he said. "They didn't have anybody in custody and Rico (Mikell)  could come kill me and my family. I was scared for my life."
    Both he and Twala Williams came clean later and told police they had been at the scene and gave details of what they saw, Jarriel noted.
    The trial resumes today at 8:30 a.m.

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