COLUMBIA — The family of Aaron Hobson cried as the guilty verdict was read in a Boone County courtroom Thursday afternoon.
Darris Arlando Peal, 22, one of eight men charged in the fatal shooting of Hobson in the parking lot of a convenience store on Oct. 23, was found guilty of second-degree murder after the jury spent about four hours in deliberation. The maximum sentence is life in prison, Judge Kevin Crane said.
Hobson's mother, Rossa Hunt, cried along with other family members when the verdict was annnounced.
After court was adjourned, Hobson’s grandfather, Al Hobson, said he was satisfied with the verdict, though "you never feel good about anyone going away for a long time."
Hobson said he would have liked to see Peal express remorse.
"He didn't seem to show very much expression," he said.
In his closing argument, Boone County Chief Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight told the jury that Peal was “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Knight said Peal was “obsessed with money,” citing a video from a cellphone in which Peal was shown riding in the back of a car with hundred dollar bills.
Three witnesses who were friends of Aaron Hobson — Dexter Faulk, Sir Paul Jones and Don Quavious Hill — testified Wednesday they came to Columbia with Hobson last October to watch his cousin, Trey Hobson, play in the Homecoming game against Oklahoma. Aaron Hobson, who was 22, lived in Wichita at the time of his death.
The three testified separately that they had attended a party at the Peachtree Catering and Banquet Center at 120 E. Nifong Blvd. and stayed for about an hour to an hour and a half before deciding to leave.
Hobson lost his phone at the party and stayed behind to look for it. He later met Faulk, Jones and Hill at a nearby Break Time convenience store at 110 E. Nifong in south Columbia.
Photos and videos presented during the trial showed Hobson flashing money in his car after the party. Knight said Hobson’s actions brought unwanted attention from Peal and seven others who were also charged with the robbery.
"It's inconceivable — the fact that all these individuals are involved in this one-sided attack — a beat down on a defenseless, small individual such as Aaron Hobson," Knight told the jury in his closing.
Faulk, Jones and Hill all testified that they saw eight to 10 men rush to attack Hobson. None of the three ever identified Peal as one of the assailants.
But they said Peal had been wearing similar clothes to those of his older brother, Daron Peal — dark jeans and an oversized white T-shirt. They also said they saw men with dreadlocks. Both Peal brothers have dreadlocks.
The three men stated they fled in their cars when shots were fired. But when Faulk didn't see Hobson’s car moving, he turned around. When he reached his friend, Hobson was slumped in the front seat.
According to court documents, Columbia Police Officer Lori Simpson responded to a call about shots being fired in the Break Time parking lot that night. Simpson identified Leo Roland and Tony Lewis as two of the suspects that fled the scene. The two have been charged in connection to Hobson’s death. Roland admitted being involved and then implicated Daron Peal as the shooter and Darris Peal as being involved in the robbery.
It was the clothing and hairstyles of the Peals, who are from St. Louis, that linked them to the slaying of Hobson during later testimony from Columbia Police Detective Joseph Jackson.
While under oath on Tuesday, Jackson said he had interrogated Peal after his arrest in St. Louis. Jackson stated Peal initially denied knowing that the robbery was taking place in the Break Time parking lot and later admitted to attacking Hobson. Footage of the video interrogation was presented to the jury on Wednesday.
Defense attorney Kevin O’Brien told the jury that Peal had participated in the incident but was not involved in causing Aaron Hobson’s death. O'Brien said Peal was not obsessed with money, as Knight had stated, but was having fun that night by showing off money, just as Hobson had done.
"This is just kids having fun," O'Brien said.
Peal's sentencing is scheduled for November.
Two other men have been sentenced in connection with the Hobson slaying. Patrick Marshall, 18, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, while Daron Peal, 23, was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
According to court documents, the remaining five defendants charged with Hobson's death are scheduled for court as follows:
- Anthony Carr, 25, is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 5.
- Lee Carter, 24, is scheduled to stand trial on Oct. 11.
- Leo Roland, 20, is scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 29.
- Tony Lewis, 28, is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 30, 2012.
- Deshon Houston, 21, is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on Feb. 13, 2012.