Four years after a Marine corporal died and his wife was wounded in a shooting outside a Lexington bar where the two celebrated her birthday, the trial for two men charged with murder started Tuesday.
Jury selection began Tuesday. If convicted, Quincinio Canada, 26, and Dawan Mulazim, 34, could be sentenced to death.
Canada and Mulazim were charged with murder, robbery and assault after Marine Cpl. Jonathan Price, 26, was shot in the back and his wife, Megan, in the leg.
On June 21, 2014, the Prices were talking outside Austin City Saloon on Woodhill Drive when they were approached by two men. One man attempted to snatch a purse from Megan, and when her husband intervened, a short scuffle happened.
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The two men fled the scene.
Forensic testing showed that Jonathan Price was shot with the same Springfield Armory XDS .45-caliber handgun that was taken during a robbery at Quality Inn on Newtown Pike on June 15, six days before the Price shootings.
The victims in that robbery were in town for a gun show and were staying at the Quality Inn. While standing outside the door of their hotel room, the two victims were approached by two men who forced them into the room at gunpoint. The robbers took wallets, money, phones and the handgun.
The robbery victims heard the suspect with short hair refer to the suspect with dreadlocks by the nickname "nephew." The police investigation into the Price shootings learned that Canada and Mulazim are related and that Mulazim refers to Canada as "nephew," according to a court document.
To the frustration of family members and Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine, the case against the accused men has taken years to get to trial.
A year ago, Goodwine said she was fed up with delays in the case when the trial was postponed. Public defenders said they needed more time to prepare. Heavy caseloads were blamed.
At one point in a hearing last spring, assistant prosecutor Kimberly Baird dabbed at tears and said with her voice cracking: “That is so unfair to the commonwealth. I recognize this is me being angry … It’s so not fair. I recognize this is going to get continued, as does the victim’s family. I recognize it’s probably going to be next year” before jury selection begins.
Price's mother, Debbie Price, said she too was frustrated, but "we don’t want the defense to come back and say something was done wrong. We want everything done right the first time."
Canada and Mulazim initially were on investigators' radar because of a crime spree.
Canada and Mulazim were indicted in 2014 in a series of violent robberies in Fayette County, most of which took place in the summer months in which the couple were attacked.
They were already in jail on separate charges in Jefferson and Hopkins counties when the duo were indicted in 2015 on charges in Price's death and the wounding of his wife.
The Canada and Mulazim case will be the second death-penalty case to be tried this year in Fayette County. In March, the trial of Ronald Exantus resulted in his acquittal in the murder of 6-year-old Logan Tipton of Versailles. But the jury convicted Exantus of assault related to injuries suffered by the boy's siblings and father. The Exantus trial was moved from Woodford County to Fayette because of pretrial publicity.
As in the Exantus case, jury selection in the Canada-Mulazim trial will take several days so testimony is not expected to begin until next week.
Baird, Aspen Roberts and Kathryn (Katie) Webster are the assistant commonwealth’s attorneys prosecuting the case. Chris Tracy and Lindsay Perdue are the public defenders for Canada. Kim Green (one of the public defenders in the Ronald Exantus case) is the public defender for Mulazim.
If found guilty of murder, Canada and Mulazim will face a range of penalties aside from death, including 20 to 50 years in prison, life without the possibility of parole, and life without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
The trial is expected to take four weeks. Testimony will not be heard on Fridays, when Fayette courts have other matters pending.