The testimony of a key prosecution witness in the murder trial of Jhammar Vernon Bowen was suspended Wednesday after the judge determined that witness was “cognitively impaired.”

Visiting Judge Lori Hamilton sent the Iredell County Superior Court jury home about 11 a.m. after deciding that Qawiesha Toliver was not able to continue her testimony.

Toliver, an alleged accomplice in the January 16, 2020, shooting death of Shana Nichole Harmon, is undergoing treatment for cancer. Before coming to court Wednesday, she took chemotherapy and prescription medication for nausea and pain, according to her testimony. She told the judge that she was in pain, could not focus and felt drowsy.

Defense attorney Ken Darty objected to Toliver continuing her testimony in that condition.

Bowen, 30, is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with Harmon’s death.

The prosecution alleges Bowen shot and killed Harmon, 25, at an abandoned home on 8th Street in Statesville because he believed she had stolen crack cocaine from Toliver’s apartment. A forensic pathologist testified earlier that Harmon suffered fatal wounds to the head and torso.

Bowen has pleaded not guilty. The gun used in the shooting has not been recovered, and several witnesses have testified that they never saw the defendant threaten or harm any women.

During the first five days of the testimony, Assistant District Attorney Mikko Red Arrow has questioned 11 witnesses and introduced more than 50 exhibits as he attempts to prove Bowen is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Much of the testimony has cast a light on the culture of drugs and prostitution that Bowen, Toliver and Harmon were involved in during the months leading up to Harmon’s death.

On Wednesday, Red Arrow showed the jury photos of Toliver and Bowen in a house on Rickert Street where they cooked and sold crack. He also introduced photos of the inside of the drug house where Harmon was killed.

After an amount of crack was reportedly stolen from Toliver’s apartment on East Broad Street, Toliver was told by an acquaintance that Shana Harmon had stolen the drugs, according to witness testimony.

The next morning, Toliver told the jury on Monday, she, Bowen and Harmon went to the drug house on 8th Street, where Bowen shot and killed Harmon. She told the jury that she did not know Bowen was going to shoot Harmon when they went to that house.

In March of 2021, Toliver met with a Statesville Police Department investigator and gave a statement in which she identified Bowen as the shooter. 

Red Arrow on Wednesday asked Toliver why she did not tell investigators what she knew about Harmon’s death on the night of the shooting.

“I didn’t say anything because I was scared,” Toliver testified.

“Scared of what?” the prosecutor asked.

“That he would hurt me,” Toliver said.

“Who?” Red Arrow asked.

“Jhammar,” she answered.

Toliver, who is free on bond, is scheduled to return to the witness stand on Thursday morning.

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