Jurors listened to witnesses Monday who described a gory scene when recalling details of a hit and-run that left a woman dead in September.
The trial of Michael Javon Scott, 29, charged with felony murder in the death of Ebony Tondra-Marie Waters, 23, on Sept. 21, 2012, began Monday in Bulloch County Superior Court and is expected to wrap up today.
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorneys Daphne Jarriel and Joseph Cushner are prosecuting the case. Scott is represented by attorney Caleb Banks. Bulloch County Superior Court Judge William T. Woodrum is presiding over the case.
Scott shook his head in denial Monday as witnesses took turns describing what they saw. He entered a not-guilty plea of last fall and asked for jury trial. He is charged with murder, felony murder and aggravated assault.
In opening arguments, Cushner told jurors that Scott chased Waters down after an argument and physical altercation, striking her with his car, then ramming her between the car and a retainer wall. Waters died from internal injuries that included a heart that "burst with the force" and said "As she lay there, taking her last breath, he was fleeing the scene."
As testimony unfolded, the story of a trio of friends who worked together at Claxton Poultry was rife with drama between Quaneisha Tribble, a woman who once dated Scott and has a child with him, Scott and Waters.
Banks countered with opening statements that focused on Waters' alleged history of "causing problems" and said she went to Scott's Palmetto Court apartment, off U.S. Highway 301 North, with a set of brass knuckles and plans to attack. Witnesses later corroborated the claim, which was further supported by the discovery of the weapon near Waters' body when it was found lying against a retainer wall at the apartment complex.
Banks said Scott "did not mean to hit" Waters,
claiming she was trying to get into his car to continue the fight.
Statesboro Police Officer Aaron Connors testified that he was the first officer on the scene, and said he performed CPR on Waters, to no avail. Bulloch County Emergency Medical Services responded, also tried to resuscitate her, and then pronounced her dead, he said.
Connors and other law enforcement witnesses told jurors of a "fluid trail" that Statesboro Police Detective Sgt. James Winskey said began right at Waters' body, surmising it started from damage upon impact. Testimony revealed Scott's shirt and headgear were found at the scene of the fight, near his apartment, several yards away from where Waters had parked her car near an apartment where Scott had lived previously.
Bulloch County sheriff's Deputy Randall Weyer, who responded to assist with the report of a deceased person, located Scott a short time later at Blakewoods Apartments, where Tribble lived with their child. He flagged Weyer down and admitted to having struck Waters, Weyer said.
When Tribble testified, she said Scott arrived at her apartment after the incident. He told her: "I messed up, I messed up. I hit Ebony and I think I killed her." He had her call his mother, Carolyn Lee, who owned the gray Ford Taurus he had been driving.
Tribble said she left in the car, which law enforcement witnesses said had evidence of Scott's blood inside, to pick Lee up. When she did, Lee took the wheel and instead of driving to Blakewood Apartments, went to Palmetto Court, driving through police tape "to see what was going on," Tribble said.
Police at the scene seized the Taurus as evidence.
Neighbor John Anthony testified hearing a male voice say "The b---- cut me," and then heard footsteps. "I got up and heard a crash. I looked out the window and saw a man holding somebody. He laid them back down, jumped in the car, backed up and left."
He identified Scott as the man he saw, pointing him out in the courtroom.
Neighbor Sharon Keelin told jurors she awoke to "a lot of hollering and screaming" and a "car screeching." She was looking through her window to see a car "coming past my window with what I thought was a large bag of trash on top of the vehicle."
Scott "was always doing all kinds of crazy stuff" in the neighborhood, she said. He "flew up and stopped, and what was on top of the car flew off. He slammed on brakes and backed up. He went forward again, and I heard a big bump."
She said Scott exited the car, ran to the front, leaned down, and then started beating himself in the head before leaving.
Another neighbor, Keith Lanier, said noise awakened him and his girlfriend. As he looked through his window, immediately in front of where Waters' body would be found, he first thought Scott had struck his girlfriend's car, which was parked one parking space away from the car Waters had been driving.
He said he saw Scott trying to lift something, then leave. When his girlfriend went to check her car, she found Waters' body, he said. Lanier also pointed to Scott as he identified him as being the man he saw that night, a man with whom he is familiar as a neighbor.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab medical examiner Dr. Jake Downs testified as well, stating that Waters died of internal injuries, including broken and separated ribs, an "exploded" heart, liver injuries, lung injuries and a fractured pelvis. She also suffered bruises and abrasions and a broken right ankle. When police secured Waters' body, her right shoe was missing; it was later found in the back yard. Winskey said he believes it flew over the apartments upon impact with Scott's car.
Downs said Waters "died as a result of blunt force injury. All this force was applied to her body at one time."
The reason for the argument between Waters and Scott was not clear Monday. Tribble testified that she had known Waters since middle school and said they rekindled their friendship when she started working at Claxton Poultry, where Scott was also working.
She said her relationship with Scott was deteriorating and they had some conflict at work because he ignored her attempts at communication but "gave attention to all the other females."
Scott told her not to talk to Waters, because she caused trouble, Tribble said, but Waters retaliated with Facebook posts about being "grown and can talk to who I want."
Before the morning Waters was killed, she asked Tribble where Scott lived and said she was going to see him, she said.
Police also testified about broken block and concrete residue underneath Scott's car, damage under the undercarriage that caused transmission fluid and other fluids to leak that they said they believe is evidence that Scott struck Waters and then pinned her against the wall with his car.
The trial resumes this morning and is expected to draw to a close by this evening, Jarriel said Monday.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.