Homicide victim's roommate testifies against accused shooter

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | 2:45 p.m. CST; updated 4:46 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 4, 2009

COLUMBIA — A roommate of murder victim Nate Bentley testified Wednesday that he recognized the accused killer's photo on the news because of his "sunken eyes."

Jordan Davis, 24, said he told police after the robbery that he didn't know any of the three intruders who came into the apartment he shared with Bentley because the three had covered their mouths and noses with cloth. But when Davis saw Damon A. Williams' mug shot on a TV news report, he recognized him.

Williams, 24, of Ashland, is on trial for pulling the trigger and killing Bentley, who was 22. He is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action in connection with the home invasion and fatal shooting of Bentley on June 10, 2008.

Early that morning, three men came into the apartment Bentley, Davis and another man shared at 3610 Pimlico Drive and pointed a gun at several witnesses, demanding  drugs and money while two other men waited outside. Two of the intruders then went upstairs and found Bentley sleeping. According to court documents, the men ordered him out of bed and shot him in the head.

Davis began crying with his head in his hands when recounting the exact moment he was told Bentley had been shot.

In opening statements, Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks portrayed Williams as the only one of the five men charged in connection with the home invasion who was calm in the hours after the homicide. He told the jury that witnesses would testify that the four other men were crying, shaking or vomiting.

"Damon Williams was over there smiling," Hicks said to the Pettis County jury, comprised of seven women and five men.

But defense attorney Christopher Slusher said physical evidence the prosecution will present against Williams is "weak at best," and witnesses might be unreliable.

"The story comes from people who have a lot of motive not to tell the truth," Slusher said.

He implied that Davis's testimony about recognizing Williams' eyes was inconsistent, questioning why Davis didn't tell police right away that he'd recognized Williams from televised news reports.

Davis said that by the time he realized he recognized Williams, the defendant had already been arrested in connection with the robbery and murder. Davis later told police he recognized another of the intruders, Michael J. Jaco, after hearing Jaco might have been involved and looking at Jaco's MySpace page on June 11.

The trial continued Wednesday afternoon in 13th Circuit Court with testimony from Jaco, 18. He pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery April 3 in the incident and has yet to be sentenced.

He is one of four other men who were originally charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action in connection with the robbery and slaying of Bentley.

Malcolm Washington, 27, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and second-degree murder and was sentenced in October to 20 years in prison. Quillan Jacobs, 17, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and was sentenced in August to seven years in prison. Denzell Smith, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery. Smith has yet to be sentenced.

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