BY MIKE FUHRMAN
When Statesville police officers responded to a home on Hickory Avenue in the early morning hours of January 6, 2018, they found Freeman Jacobi Wells suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.
Assistant District Attorney Mikko Red Arrow told an Iredell Superior Court jury on Wednesday that the scene resembled a “war zone.” Officers found evidence that 60 to 70 rounds had been fired at the home, Red Arrow said, adding that one projectile grazed Wells’ arm and a second struck him in the temple.
Wells, 30, died later that day after being transported to a local hospital.
Kevin Turner, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Wells’ death. A total of 15 people face charges in connection with the shooting and a second shooting that occurred two days later.
Turner, who faces life in prison if he is convicted, is the first suspect to stand trial. Testimony began Wednesday and is expected to continue into next week.
During his opening statement, the prosecutor told the jury that the shooting was the result of a “beef” between two groups.
Turner was part of a group — which Red Arrow later called “the Caldwell crew”” — that acted in concert on the night of the shooting, according to the prosecutor.
“They acted intentionally, maliciously with premeditation and deliberation, with intent and purpose and their goal was to murder Freeman Jacobi Wells,” he said.
Defense attorney John Basinger asked the jury to carefully consider all of the evidence in the case. There will be no ballistic evidence, no DNA evidence, no fingerprints and no gunshot residue tying Turner to the crime.
“Kevin wasn’t there. There is no one who is going to place him there that is a credible witness,” Basinger told the jury.
Spending time with family members and others who have been charged in a crime, he said, is not sufficient to convict Turner or murder.
“We want you to return a verdict of not guilty,” Basinger said. “Kevin is innocent in this case.”
After opening statements, Superior Court Judge Greg Horne empaneled 12 jurors and three alternates. One of the jurors was later excused after he notified the judge that he believed he could be related to witnesses in the case.
Prosecution begins presenting evidence
During the trial’s first day, the prosecutor called six witnesses to the stand, including Wells’ cousin, his girlfriend and a neighbor.
Wells’ cousin, Darris Eccles, testified that the shooting occurred after the two men returned home in the early morning hours of January 6 after they went to a club in Charlotte the evening before. On the way home they stopped at a convenience store near Park Drive, where Wells had a minor dispute with some people, he said.
Five minutes after they were inside Wells’ home at 524 Hickory Avenue, “the shots just started coming in from all the windows,” Eccles said.
Seven people, including two children, were in the house at the time of the shooting.
When the shooting stopped, “I asked if anybody was hit,” Eccles said. “Everybody was screaming.”
When Eccles looked by the front door, he saw his cousin — who was known as “Cobi” and “YG” — on the floor. He had sustained a gunshot wound to the front of his head.
“I said, ‘Cobi, you okay?” Eccles told the jury. “He never replied.”
Wells’ girlfriend, Bianca Williams, also testified that Wells did not respond to her when she went to check on him.
A neighbor told the jury she heard someone walk by her window a few minutes before the shooting erupted. When she looked out the window, she saw two men. One was “big and heavyset,” she said, and the other had a regular build.
Under questioning from the prosecutor and defense attorney, all three witnesses said they did not know Turner and did not see him on the night of the shooting.
The jury also watched a video taken from the body camera of Statesville police Cpl. Harold Sexton, who was among first officers on the scene.
The video — which the judge conceded was “gory” before allowing it into evidence, citing relevant case law — showed Wells sprawled on the floor with blood trickling out of a wound in his head.
Sexton stayed by Wells, encouraging him to hang on until medical first responders arrived.
“You’re doing good. You’re doing fine. I’m right here with you,” Sexton said. “Keep fighting. Keep breathing. Come on. Stay with me.”
When Iredell County EMS personnel arrived, about 10 minutes after Sexton’s body camera activated, Wells had shallow breathing and a slight pulse, the corporal testified.
After Wells was transported, additional SPD officers began arriving on the scene. During questioning from the prosecutor, Sgt. Shannon Humprey detailed for the jury the dozens of spent shell casings found outside the residence where Wells was fatally wounded.
Red Arrow introduced more than 100 photos into evidence that showed the locations where the casings were found along with damage to the exterior of the dwelling and inside, where the refrigerator, microwave, ceiling, and door frames were damaged by the projectiles.
Judge Horne dismissed the jury about 5 p.m. Wednesday. The trial is set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.