Crime

Testimony begins in Lexington Green murder case

Lillian Schulman initially thought the commotion in The Mall at Lexington Green parking lot during the afternoon of March 5, 2009, was a "couple of guys horsing around," she testified Thursday.

But moments later, while looking through the glass of the mall store where she worked, an arm of one of the guys "came out and I heard a pop," she said.

Brian Engle said he heard a gunshot, then two figures came into view as he and a friend were driving through the parking lot.

There was a man on the ground and a man standing over him "appearing very angry" and holding what appeared to be a small caliber automatic in his hand, Engle said.

Engle then stood up from his seat on the witness stand in Fayette Circuit Court and identified the gunman as Toby Ray Lasure, who was sitting at the defense table. Engle said he heard a second shot while positioning his 1998 Toyota 4Runner about 25 yards away from the two men. He said he left the engine running and the transmission in gear.

Schulman and Engle were among the first witnesses who testified in the murder trial of Lasure, 33, who is accused of killing his ex-boyfriend Christopher Tolliver, 31.

Lasure, at times sobbing quietly and kneading a tissue in one hand, listened as prosecution and defense attorneys gave opening statements and the first witnesses testified.

Lasure is accused of gunning down Tolliver at Lexington Green, then leading police on a high-speed chase that ended with a standoff lasting more than three hours. In addition to murder, Lasure is on trial for first-degree fleeing and evading police, and leaving the scene of an accident.

A jury of five men and nine women — two will become alternates — was selected to hear the case Thursday afternoon. The trial is expected to last five days.

During opening statements, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kathy Phillips described to jurors the high-speed police chase and the standoff, which, she said, ended after Lasure ran out of cigarettes.

From noon until about 2 p.m. that day, Phillips said, Lasure had been visiting a therapist at Jesse G. Harris Jr. Psychological Services Center. During the session, Phillips said, the therapist asked Lasure whether he heard voices or saw things. He told her he did not, the prosecutor said.

The therapist told investigators Lasure seemed fine when he left that day, according to Phillips.

But after his arrest, Lasure told Lexington police detective Todd Iddings that "voices told me I needed to go home and get a gun," Phillips said.

She said Lasure also told the detective that he had a relationship with Tony Devreux but that he and Tolliver were a happy couple. Devreux did not know about Lasure's relationship with Tolliver, Phillips said.

The prosecutor showed the jury text messages that had been exchanged between Lasure and Tolliver before the shooting. Lasure had sent Tolliver messages about the two of them going to work out at a gym. In his response, Tolliver said he needed time alone, and he told Lasure not to take it personally.

When Lasure talked to Iddings, he told the detective that Tolliver's messages told Lasure to get out of Tolliver's life.

Tolliver had told relatives he wanted to end his relationship with Lasure.

Lasure told Iddings he drove to Fitness 19 on Boston Road, where he saw Tolliver, then followed Tolliver to Lexington Green, Phillips said. Lasure told the detective that he shot Tolliver, she said.

Phillips described Tolliver as a talented man who especially liked working with children at Lexington Children's Theater.

"He wrote music. He sang. He played every instrument, except for the guitar," she said.

The prosecutor named about four witnesses who would be testifying that they heard and/or saw the shooting.

Tolliver was shot first in the lower back and then in the back of the head, Phillips said. Phillips said Lasure basically executed him.

Lasure's attorney, Rawl Kazee, told the jury the incident was tragic for everyone involved.

Kazee said the facts are that Tolliver was shot and Lasure pulled the trigger. But "what there will be debate about is whether it was murder," he said.

Kazee asked the jury to listen carefully to the story that would play out for of them.

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