The prosecution and defense gave opening statements Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of fatally shooting the driver of a car in which he was a passenger as they traveled through a Newnan shopping center.
Willie Louis Turner II is charged with malice murder, felony murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Turner was arrested and charged only hours after the incident.
The prosecution claims Turner was under the influence of cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy when he fatally shot Travalas Acres in the early morning hours of Feb. 19, 2016.
Kevin McMurray of the Coweta District Attorney’s Office began by painting a picture for the jury of the events that led up to the incident. McMurray described the journey of four men who entered the car being driven by Acres with the intent of heading to a club on Old National Highway the evening of Feb. 18.
Riding along with Acres and Turner in the car that night were front seat passenger Jonathan Allen and Turner’s cousin, Jemelle Moss, who sat directly behind Allen.
All four men were allegedly under the influence of various drugs, including Allen who admitted to snorting cocaine before the fatal shooting.
Earlier that evening, Allen recalled seeing a gun being passed from Moss to Turner. Allen said the gun, identified as a Taurus Judge pistol, was recently purchased from an alleged drug addict who resides in the Eastgate Apartment complex. Allen then sold the gun for a small profit to Moss.
In his remarks to the jury, Allen recalled Turner pointing the gun at Acres’ head earlier that evening due to a dispute about recently showing up at a relative's house late at night.
However, the dispute seemed to be resolved, according to Allen.
Allen told the jury that while all four men were under the influence of various drugs, Turner had a reputation for being “rambunctious” while on cocaine.
While on the way to the club, Acres allegedly missed the turn for McIntosh Parkway which acted as a shortcut to the interstate. This agitated Turner, who proceeded to verbally abuse Acres while the car continued to travel down an access road parallel to Newnan Crossing Bypass.
Before the car reached the Corner Tavern, Acres was shot in the back of the head by Turner, according to Allen. While Allen did not see Turner shoot the pistol, the noise and smoke seemed to originate from where he was seated in the car – directly behind Acres.
The car then crashed into a light pole next to the Corner Tavern, where several witnesses reported seeing the three men flee from the scene.
Allen ran to a nearby apartment complex behind Target where he was able to knock on someone's door for help. Moss and Turner ran south toward Taco Mac.
Several hours later, an officer with the Newnan Police Department found Turner walking down Bullsboro near El Ranchero without any pants, socks or shoes.
Moss managed to avoid capture that evening, but turned himself in six days later.
Turners’ attorneys, Jacqueline and Charlie Cauble, postulated that Moss shot Acres and that investigators relied on false statements from Allen.
“Allen told police he didn’t know who Moss was and maintained this lie even through the preliminary hearing,” Jacqueline Cauble said. “But he knew it was Moss and was afraid of any possible retaliation from him. It wasn’t the first time Moss has shot someone.”
Cauble alleged Moss was on parole at the time of the shooting and had an active warrant for battery.
“This was a lazy investigation from police who failed to question the lies made by Allen and never suspected Moss,” she said.
Several witnesses from the Corner Tavern testified of hearing the loud crash of the car striking the light pole and seeing the men fleeing on foot. Believing the driver was possibly intoxicated, several attempted to render aid.
However, when it became clear that it was something far more serious, they removed themselves from the scene until police arrived. Police said that during their investigation they did not recover a gun or any casings from the car.
Court ended for the day before the defense could cross-examine Allen. It resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Clay Neely: firstname.lastname@example.org, @clayneely