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Suspect in fatal 2017 Brundidge shooting begins trial

Testimony began Wednesday in the murder trial of Jacory Townsend.

Townsend, 25, of Brundidge, is charged with first-degree murder, in the May 2017 shooting death of Xavier Hakeem Thomas., also of Brundidge

Prosecutors say Jacory Townsend gunned down Thomas in retaliation for an alleged robbery of co-defendant Demarcus Flowers, who is also charged in with first-degree murder. The defense argued that no reliable evidence placed Jacory Townsend at the scene of the crime and that Brundidge police have gone so far as to “cover up” what really happened.

Thomas was shot multiple times and killed while siting in his vehicle on Walding Circle in Brundidge on May 26, 2017. It was the night of Pike County High School’s graduation.

Bernard Still was allegedly sitting in the driver’s seat. Still testified Tuesday the pair had just gotten back to the parking lot after dropping off a TV for relative who was graduating.

“We were chilling and drinking getting ready to go to a party,” Still said. “We were looking at our phones, not really doing anything … It was about 30 seconds before the other car pulled in.”

Still said Townsend exited the passenger side of that other vehicle and “racked back” the gun and began shooting.

“The moment he started firing I grabbed (Xavier) and pulled him over with me … The (driver’s) door was already open. I could have pulled him out, but he got stuck. He let me go and I fell out of the car.”

Still said he fled into the nearby woods after Thomas told him to go.

Prosecutor Josh Wilson called the shooting a “senseless and inexplicable act of violence.”

“This is as straightforward as they get,” Wilson told the jury. “There will be no CSI moment today … this is no Law and Order episode … this is as real as it gets.”

Sherri Mazur, Townsend’s attorney, argued that the case is not as straightforward as Wilson said.

“This case is about questionable sources, questionable identifications and very questionable investigations,” Mazur said. “This will leave you questioning. The problem is the state has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That is no small burden. It is the highest burden in the American justice system, as it should be. Beyond a reasonable doubt requires proof, not possibilities. It requires substance, not speculation. The cloak of innocence is not removed until the state proves guilt.”

Mazur said the narrative of the murder had been constructed by law enforcement.

“All of the stories and cover-ups that came afterwards so that those boys wouldn’t be in trouble and somebody else would be instead, those are the stories that are questionable …” Mazur said during opening arguments. “The town created a story that would get them out of trouble.”

Mazur questioned the process of Brundidge investigators Chris Brooks and Charles Beasley, who testified on Tuesday.

Brooks, crime scene investigator, said he marked the location of nine shell casings at the crime scene, six of which were outside the vehicle and three of which were inside. Brooks said he also observed blood outside the vehicle and gunpowder residue inside the vehicle. Holes presumed to be bullet holes and projectiles from bullets were also found in the car.

Mazur questioned a decision by Brooks to enter all nine shell casings into one bag instead of keeping them separated to know which casing was at which marker.

She also questioned why Brooks did not dust for fingerprints or swab the blood for testing.

Brooks responded that he saw no reason to collect that information, as witnesses told police the gunman had not made contact with the vehicle. He also said the empty bullet shell casings provide no forensic value and that the gunpowder residue is only helpful in determining that a gun had been fired at the scene.

When Beasley, the lead investigator, took the stand. Mazur challenged why Beasley did not charge other people who reportedly met with Demarcus Flowers and Tige Townsend to discuss plans to exact revenge against Thomas.

Beasley said those people were witnesses instead of suspects.

With Still on the stand, Mazur challenged Still on whether Brundidge Police Chief Moses Davenport had threatened Still during an investigation that he would be charged with murder if he didn’t change his story.

“That’s correct,” Still said, then added, “He threatened to charge me with murder if I didn’t tell the truth. So I started telling the truth.”

Day two of the murder trial will begin at 9 a.m. today in Courtroom C at the Pike County Courthouse. Judge Tom Head is presiding over the proceedings.