When two men robbed Marine Cpl. Jonathan Price in 2014, killing him and wounding his wife, they got away with $60, prosecutors said at the first day of a retrial in the case Thursday.
Dawan Mulazim, 36, has already been tried in connection with Price’s death, but the 2018 jury was unable to reach a verdict on some of the charges against him. Thursday, a new jury heard opening arguments and testimony in his new trial on the murder charge, and on a first-degree robbery charge related to a separate 2014 incident on Second Street.
During his first trial, Mulazim was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years in the robbery of three people at the Quality Inn on Newtown Court, and to an additional 10 years on a tampering with evidence charge.
Mulazim’s nephew, Quincinio Canada, was also tried in the robberies and the shooting death of Price. Canada was acquitted of murder, robbery and assault in the shooting that killed Price and injured his wife, Megan. Canada was convicted in the Quality Inn robbery and sentenced to 50 years in the case.
Jonathan Price bled out and died alone in the parking lot of Austin City Saloon in the early morning hours of June 21, 2014, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Kathryn Webster said Thursday in her opening arguments. Megan Price had been nearby, unable to reach him because of a gunshot wound to her leg.
The frantic 911 call Megan Price made on the night of the shooting was played for jurors on Thursday. They listened to the recording of her screaming “I love you, I don’t want you to die,” to Jonathan Price as they waited for an ambulance to arrive.
The Prices were in Lexington celebrating Megan Price’s birthday when the shooting happened. Jonathan Price was 26 when he died.
When they were approached by two men with guns, Jonathan Price told Megan Price to run, Webster said.
Prosecutors played surveillance video taken in the area of Austin City Saloon on the night of the shooting. The videos showed a silver Chevrolet Malibu with two passengers going through a liquor store drive through and driving around the parking lot where the Prices would soon be robbed, Webster said.
Mulazim shook his head repeatedly as Webster told the jury that he and his nephew, Canada, parked their car and approached Jonathan and Megan Price with the intent to rob them.
One of Mulazim’s defense attorneys, Andrea Kendall, said during her opening arguments that pressure from the media, mayor and community caused police and investigators to look into Mulazim and Canada’s potential involvement in the murder and robberies with a presumption of guilt.
Police turned to Mulazim and Canada as possible suspects in the crimes after a rumor from a “nameless, faceless” man, Kendall said during her opening arguments.
Kendall argued that some evidence had been overlooked or disregarded, and that DNA that was found under Jonathan Price’s fingernails did not match Mulazim. The DNA would have matched the true killer, who he had fought with before being shot, she said.
Megan Price had previously said that one of the men had a revolver, and the other had a silver semi-automatic, Kendall said. The gun Mulazim is accused of using in the shooting was a black semi-automatic Springfield XDS .45.
“Wrong DNA, wrong gun, wrong man,” Kendall said.
The robbery in the parking lot of Austin City Saloon was part of a “crime spree” by Mulazim and Canada, Webster said.
On June 15, 2014, Shane Hansford, Jessica Rutherford and Mitchell Smith were robbed at their Quality Inn hotel room on Newtown Court. The three testified Thursday that Hansford and Rutherford had been outside their hotel room when they were approached by two men.
One of the men who’d approached them had dreadlocks and the other was wearing a flat-brim ball cap, Rutherford and Hansford testified.
The first man, who had a hood pulled forward and his head down, walked past the two of them without making eye contact, Hansford said. The second man, who was wearing the ball cap, made eye contact with Hansford and nodded at him, Hansford said.
After Hansford returned the nod, the man in the ball cap stopped and pointed a gun at his chest, telling him to give him everything he had.
Rutherford, who is now married to Hansford, screamed when she saw the gun pointed at Hansford. The man with the hood pulled up then yelled at her to be quiet and pointed a gun at her head, causing her to scream again, she said.
The two men pushed Hansford and Rutherford back into their hotel room and told them to lie on the bed face down. Before they did, they saw the two men take Hansford’s gun from Smith, who had grabbed it after hearing Rutherford scream.
The gun the men took was a Springfield XDS .45, Hansford said.
Hansford later identified Mulazim in a photo line up. He said he was 100 percent sure Mulazim was one of the men who robbed the group at the Quality Inn.
“I looked him dead in the eye that night ... there’s no doubt in my mind,” Hansford told jurors Thursday.
Kendall called Shane Hansford’s identification of Mulazim as “Moonshine I.D.,” referencing the fact that he had bought cherry moonshine at a liquor store on the night of the robbery.
Hansford told jurors he was sober at the time of the robbery. He hadn’t liked the moonshine and had only taken a few drinks of it, he said.
As the men left, Hansford, Rutherford and Smith said they heard one of them say, “come on, nephew.”
This is significant because Mulazim and Canada were known to refer to each other as “nephew” and “unc,” Webster said.
After the men left the hotel room, Smith went outside with Hansford’s other gun. Smith followed the men around the back of the building and heard them in a nearby wooded area, Smith said.
Kendall questioned Smith about a series of Facebook posts he made after the robbery, including one in which he shared an article about the robbery and wrote “This Was Me and bro. If They Didn’t Look Alike They Would Be Dead.”
When asked, Smith confirmed that he was referring to people who are black. He said he had written it out of stress and anger over what happened.
A later Facebook post by Smith included a link to an article about Jonathan Price’s death, and said that it was the same men who had robbed him. He also wrote that he hoped the suspects would go to jail and “die there slowly.”
The trial is set to continue Monday morning.