On Tuesday, jurors heard from the stepdaughter of a man shot and killed in a "hit style" murder on June 30, 2013.
Katrina Denise Ledford, 30, of Davisboro, along with her mother, Antoinette Riley, 50, of Greenbriar Trail, pleaded guilty earlier this year to the murder of Michael Anthony Riley, 51, who was shot in the head as he slept in his Greenbriar Trail home that morning.
Two of three men also charged in the murder are on trial: Tarell Momon, 36, an inmate at Dooly State Prison, and Terrance Ray Griswould, 30, of Augusta. The third man, Travis Lorenzo Berrian, 29, was shot and killed after he shot and wounded a probation officer during an attempt to arrest him in Augusta in July 2013.
Antoinette Riley is expected to testify Wednesday, in the trial's fourth day, after Ledford completes her testimony.
Ledford testified Tuesday that she met Momon online through a social media site and the two began a relationship. However, Momon had been an inmate at Washington State Prison before that, where Ledford was a guard. Earlier testimony stated she was terminated for involvement with Momon, as relationships between guards and inmates are forbidden, but prison warden Donald Barrow testified Tuesday that Ledford was terminated because she refused to submit to a strip search after someone reported she was smuggling contraband into the prison.
Ledford testified Tuesday that she still considers Momon her boyfriend, admitting she visited him "almost every weekend" and talked to him on a cellphone daily. She acknowledged he had a cellphone, which is contraband in prison, and admitted texting and calling him. However, when asked specific questions about texts between herself, Momon and Riley, Ledford habitually responded with "I don't know" or "I don't recall" when queried by Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Daphne Totten.
Ledford admitted talking with Momon via Tango, where images of each party could be seen live on a cellphone or computer as they conversed. She denied helping Momon get the cellphone or that she knew how he got it. She told jurors her mother, Riley, knew about their relationship and approved, stating, "If you like it, I love it."
Ledford said Antoinette and Michael Riley "didn't get along," but when asked about texts between Momon and Antoinette Riley, she denied knowledge of what they referred to when Momon sent texts to Mrs. Riley stating, "They are going to kill him."
Ledford denied knowing what her mother and Momon were planning, even when confronted with a text from herself to Momon stating "She (Riley) doesn't want her house messed up."
Speaking in a low voice that prompted Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. Turner to direct her to speak louder, Ledford stated she didn't know Michael Riley was to be killed, but said she believed he "was going to get beat up by some guys" Momon sent. "I didn't want anything to do with it," she said, adding that she "didn't think he was serious" when Momon sent the text stating "They are going to kill" Riley.
"We never talked about it" afterward, and she learned her stepfather was dead when a friend of her mother's called her while Ledford was recovering in the hospital from gall bladder surgery.
The prosecution played a video Tuesday morning showing an interview between police and Griswould in which he repeatedly denied involvement in the murder.
"I never murdered anybody," he said, giving an alibi that he was with "Country," a woman named Joy Robinson, that night and that he had loaned his car, containing his cellphone, which was charging, to Berrien.
However, Robinson testified later Tuesday that although she had been with Griswould the night of June 29 and early morning of June 30, 2013, she left to go home and was not with him at the time Michael Riley was killed,
Statesboro police Detective Sgt. James Winskey and Detective Kevin Wadley testified that cellphone records and cellphone tower data showed Griswould's phone had traveled and been used from Augusta to North Augusta, South Carolina, and then to Statesboro, down Fair Road. The data shows the phone, which had been used by Griswould to send texts and calls during that night and morning, had made the trip back to Augusta along the same route. At the end of the recorded interview, Griswould seemed to become agitated and said, "I don't know anything about a hit. I need a lawyer, I need my lawyer, and I need to call my mama."
Momon's attorney Gabe Cliett has stated during the trial that no one has found a cellphone in Momon's possession, in spite of allegations from the prosecution that Momon, using the nicknames "King" and "The Gifted" in signing off on texts, held continuous correspondence with Ledford and Antoinette Riley by phone.
However, Winskey testified that cellphone tower data showed the cell phone believed to be the one Momon used "never left Dooly State Prison," where Momon was transferred after leaving Washington State Prison.
Barrow testified that cellphones, banned from inmate possession, are a common form of contraband in prison. "Cellphones are one of our biggest problems right now," he said.
James Waynick, a security threat group investigator with the Georgia Department of Corrections, agreed that cellphones, as well as drugs and tobacco, are commonly found among inmates. He said inmates often have cellphone and social media accounts.
He also testified that both Momon and Berrian, who met in prison, were members of the Gangster Disciples, a Chicago-based gang. An inmate must have 10 points collected during investigations that indicate he or she is a gang member; Momon has 15 points and Berrian had 16 points, Waynick said.
There are 650 security threat groups identified in the Georgia state prison system, and more than 11,000 security threat group members in the state's prisons. Gangs are considered security threat groups, he said.
Court is expected to resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, with Ledford's testimony to continue, followed by three other state witnesses including Antoinette Riley. The defense is expected to call seven witnesses afterward.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.