STANFORD — The murders of two young Lincoln County men in February 2002 resulted from a botched attempt to steal cocaine and money from one of them, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
The assailants traveled from Richmond to rob Ryan Shangraw, 20, because they knew he sold cocaine, but they shot him and his friend Harold "Bo" Upton III, 18, who happened to be visiting at the wrong time, Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery said.
Jamarkos Campbell fired the shots that killed Shangraw, Montgomery told jurors Wednesday, the first day of testimony in Campbell's trial
"He's guilty. He needs to pay," Montgomery said. "It's been a long time coming."
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However, Campbell's attorney, Edward Cooley, said some evidence in the case was ignored and suspects disregarded, and he tried to raise doubts about the credibility of a key prosecution witness.
Campbell, who is in his early 20s, is the first of five men charged in the murders to go on trial. The others are Neccolus Mundy, 26; Deonte Simmons, 25; Charles E. Smith, 26; and Matthew Tolson. Tolson pleaded guilty in return for a recommended 20-year sentence and agreed to testify against the others.
Montgomery said in a court motion that he will seek the death penalty for Mundy, Simmons and Smith if they are convicted.
Campbell was 16 when the murders happened, so he can't be sentenced to death if convicted. The maximum sentence he faces is life in prison without parole for at least 25 years.
Campbell is only now going to trial, more than seven years after the murders, because it took years for police to get a key piece of evidence. That development was the discovery that DNA from saliva on a blue bandanna discarded near the murder scene came from Campbell, Montgomery said.
When police questioned Campbell, he admitted going to Shangraw's small trailer in the Hubble community, but he said he didn't shoot anyone, Montgomery said.
Information from Campbell led investigators to others, however, including Tolson.
Tolson, now 24, testified Wednesday that he and the others charged were in the Crips gang and showed that by wearing blue, including blue bandannas.
Tolson said he and the others went to Shangraw's to steal cocaine. They snorted cocaine, smoked marijuana and drank alcohol on the way, he said.
Tolson said Campbell went into the trailer with a rifle, while he and Simmons had pistols. The other two waited in the car, he said.
Shangraw was sitting in a recliner. Upton, Tabitha Wilder and Tara Strunk, who had stopped to visit and smoke marijuana before heading to the basketball homecoming dance at Lincoln County High School, were sitting on a couch, according to testimony.
After Campbell and his friends burst in and demanded drugs and money, Shangraw first said he didn't have any drugs. Campbell began beating Shangraw on the head with the butt of the rifle as the panicked girls screamed, Tolson said.
Tolson said that Shangraw grabbed the rifle and that he and Campbell wrestled with it. When Shangraw broke loose and started moving toward the kitchen, Campbell shot him, Tolson said.
Tolson said he ran from the trailer, but he saw Simmons shooting toward the couch. He said he thinks Simmons shot Upton, a star baseball player planning to go to college.
There was a hail of bullets in the small trailer — 15 to 25 shots in all, Montgomery said.
Wilder and Strunk were both grazed as they cowered on the couch.
Tolson said he, Campbell and Simmons ran to the car without getting any cocaine or money. As the five drove away, they threw guns and bandannas out of the car, Tolson said.
On cross-examination, Cooley implied that Tolson was lying in order to get a shorter sentence. Tolson admitted he lied to police when they first questioned him, but he insisted his testimony was the truth.
Wilder, now 22, and Strunk, now 24, testified that four armed men with bandannas covering their lower faces came into the trailer — a difference from Tolson's testimony that three of them went inside.
Wilder said she was reaching for her purse to leave for the dance when the door swung open. The scene was chaotic: the armed men making demands, Shangraw and Upton telling them to calm down, and Strunk screaming for the assailants not to kill them, Wilder said.
"I covered my head and prayed," she said.
As Upton stood up from the couch and held out his wallet, someone shot him, Wilder said.
Montgomery said Upton died immediately. Shangraw lived long enough to tell her to call 911, Strunk testified.