Was it murder or self-defense? The trial to sort out what happened in one of 2010's grisliest homicides began Monday in Fayette Circuit Court.
Sidney Lane Williams Jr. contends that he shot and killed Victor Martin in self-defense, a public defender told a jury on the opening day of Williams' trial for murder.
"But it was not murder" because Williams, 38, was defending himself in his own home, public defender Chris Tracy told the jury.
Williams admits to binding, bagging and removing Martin's body from the Alabama Avenue shooting scene, dumping it by a driveway off Russell Cave Road and then setting it on fire. Those actions led to charges of tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse, Tracy said. Williams will testify during the trial, Tracy said.
The prosecution tells another story. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Todd Bradbury said in his opening that Williams lured the laid-off Martin to Williams' house on Alabama Avenue with the promise of a paying landscaping job, then accused Martin of burglarizing the house while Williams was on vacation. The argument ended with Williams shooting Martin, 39, in the eye.
"There was never a landscaping job," Bradbury said.
Williams bound and bagged the body, cleaned up the bloody mess in the kitchen, put the body in the back of his Chevy Suburban, dumped it beside a driveway off Russell Cave Road and then set it on fire, Bradbury said in his statement.
Homeowner Jack Burch testified that he found the still-smoldering body on the morning of Aug. 15, 2010, as he went to get his morning newspapers.
At one time, Williams and Martin had been employed by Aichi Forge, a metal-forging plant in Scott County. Martin worked there until he was laid off the month before his death. Neighbors in Lexington knew Martin as "the liquor man" because he sold alcohol at cheaper prices than it was sold in stores.
Lexington police interviewed Williams early in the investigation. He initially told them that Martin never showed up for the landscaping job, and the case went cold for seven months.
The case broke in March 2011 when police interviewed Williams' girlfriend, Ranetta Blevins, who reportedly had told co-workers at Country Inn & Suites that Williams had killed Martin. Blevins told police the landscaping job that Williams had for Martin "was a complete fabrication," Bradbury said.
Blevins told police she could hear Williams questioning Martin from another room, Bradbury said. She heard Williams accusing Martin of breaking into the house, and she heard Martin saying, "I didn't do it. I couldn't do that to you."
Blevins told police she heard Williams slam a gun down on the kitchen table and heard him tell Martin, "Don't make me use it."
Blevins heard the gun fire once and then went into the kitchen and saw Martin lying on the floor, Bradbury said. Police never found the gun used in the shooting.
"You're going to have to decide whether his claim of self-defense has any merit or if it is his attempt to" justify "the horrible acts he committed," Bradbury told the jury.
Tracy, the public defender, said there was, indeed, a landscaping job. Williams intended to pay Martin for clearing some brush.
On the day of the shooting, Williams returned home from the store to find the screen door and back door open, Tracy said.
Williams went down a hall to a bedroom and found Victor Martin on top of Ranetta Blevins, although Blevins later told police there was never a rape or sexual assault. Williams pulled Martin off Blevins, and the two men wound up in the kitchen. There, Tracy said, Martin pulled a gun on Williams and told him, "I know where you work. I know they pay you good."
Williams pulled out $180 to $200, but Martin said, "That's not enough money. I need more."
Williams eventually rushed Martin, they struggled on the kitchen floor, and Williams grabbed the gun to shoot Martin, Tracy said.
"He didn't even realize he had shot him," Tracy said.
Neither Williams nor Blevins called police. Tracy said Williams didn't think that would be a good idea, given that he was "a black fella with a dead body in his kitchen and a gun in his hand."
The trial continues Tuesday before Judge Thomas Clark.