Murder trial sees initial evidence

Published 10:24 pm Monday, August 10, 2009

An argument over apparent threats to a family dog led to the murder of a Brundidge man, according to testimony heard in court on Monday.

Shawanda Roberson, 35, of Brundidge, is charged with murder in the March 2008 death of 18-year-old Kelley Lee Holland, who died of a stab wound. Both were residents of the Shady Lane Trailer Park in Brundidge, where the murder occurred.

According to testimony on Monday, Kelley was murdered after a confrontation in which Roberson’s children accused him of threatening to harm their family dog.

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Pike County Assistant District Attorney Tom Anderson told the jury in his opening statements that on the evening of March 18, Holland was walking from his residence to the laundry facilities to wash his clothes, a journey that required him to pass by Roberson’s home.

During that time, Roberson’s three children and a related child living with her at the time, were alleged to have met Holland outside their home, accusing him of running over the family’s dog.

“He said something like, ‘I didn’t do anything to your dog,’ minds his own business and washes his clothes, takes the clothes basket and leaves the wash house, which brings him back by the Roberson trailer,” Anderson said.

After returning home, Anderson said the victim when to Brenda McClendon’s house to borrow an iron. While he was speaking with neighbors, Anderson alleged the four children living with Roberson approached Holland and began accusing him of killing their dog once again.

“Chucky (Holland’s nickname) walks out in the street and says ‘I didn’t know your dog. I didn’t touch your dog,’” Anderson said. “That’s when they start throwing bottles and rocks at him.”

Anderson said when the eldest child, Marcus, hit Holland in the face, the victim began to fight back.

“Chucky finally decides to defend himself and chases Marcus,” Anderson said. “They go behind a trailer, and the kids are all shouting and hollering when Shawanda comes out.”

The testimony of several witnesses called by Anderson and Pike County District Attorney Gary McAliley in court matched Anderson’s allegations.

Santora Berry, who resided at the McClendon home, said she witnessed Marcus punch her boyfriend’s best friend Holland in the face just before Holland began to chase him.

While the other two children started to throw bottles and bricks at Holland, Berry testified she saw the Roberson’s niece return inside her home.

“By the time Ms. Roberson runs out the door, she tells the other girl to go get her keys, she’s gonna run over him,” Berry said. McClendon and Justin English, another of Holland’s friends, said Roberson then got in her vehicle and struck Holland.

Berry said she then saw Holland get up from the incident, pick up a cinder block and throw it into the back of Roberson’s car window, breaking the glass.

Then, witnesses said they saw Roberson get out of her car and head toward Holland, who was walking backward toward the McClendon’s home.

“He’s walking backwards, so she gets out of the car,” Berry said. “I can actually see the knife. She walks up to him and stabs him right in his chest.”

McClendon and English both said they did not see a knife but alleged they saw Roberson punch him in the chest.

“I saw her get out of the car, walk up to him and punch him in the chest,” McClendon said. “He was trying to walk away from her, and she punched him again in the back.”

“I observed her looking like she was punching him in the chest and by the time he got back up to us he had a small cut on his chest,” English said. “He said ‘look what this bitch did to me,’ spit blood out of his mouth and fell face-first to the ground.”

Brundidge Police Officer Corporal Charles Beasley Sr., who was the first to arrive on the scene, said he found Holland’s body in a lawn chair outside McClendon’s home unconscious. Pike County Coroner Jerry Williams later pronounced him dead at the scene.

Senior State Medical Examiner Dr. Alfredo Parades, who performed the autopsy on Holland said that while there were two stab wounds and apparent abrasions on Kelley’s body, he believed the stab wound to the chest is the sole cause of death.

“The stab wound penetrated the chest cavity and cut his heart and he bled internally,” Parades said. “In my opinion, he died from the stab wound to the chest. He also had one in his heart, but in my opinion that didn’t cause his death.”

While witnesses testified Holland had fallen face first into the ground, Savannah Starks testified that she attempted to perform CPR before law enforcement arrived and also moved the victim to the chair.

Beasley’s testimony also revealed that the initial suspect taken into custody was not Roberson but her niece, Kristina.

Beasley testified she confessed to stabbing Holland and told officers where to find the knife.

Later, both Berry and Starks testified to having heard Roberson tell Kristina to take the blame because she would “get less time.”

Brandon Coots, Roberson’s attorney, only had time to call one witness Monday. But, the testimony of Roberson’s 11-year-old daughter Shaqueda Stroud did not match that of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Stroud told the jury that Holland had approached her with her dog earlier that day with threats.

“Me and my dog was by the trash can, and he said he was gonna knock me and my dog out if my mom don’t shut up,” Stroud said.

And, while other witnesses testified that they did not see Holland harm Roberson or any of her children during the course of event, Stroud said he had hit her with a brick on her leg.

Stroud also testified Holland struck her mother and that she never witnessed her mom stab Holland, even though she did watch the entire series of events.

Coots will call more witnesses when court convenes Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the Pike County Courthouse, and the jury will then deliberate for verdict.