COLUMBIA — Tre’Veon Marshall’s family wept as Nicholas Thomas was found guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action Friday after a three-day trial.
Erin Monroe, who dated Marshall for four years, said she shed happy tears as Circuit Court Judge Kevin Crane read the verdict. The jury deliberated for about four hours.
"I'm excited that he was found guilty, but it still hurts because I once knew that person, and he took away the person that meant the world to me,” Monroe said after the trial.
Thomas shot and killed Marshall at about 11:40 p.m. on July 14 at McKee Street Park.
The penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison without parole. Tracy Gonzalez, Boone County assistant prosecutor, said during jury selection Wednesday that the state wasn't seeking the death penalty .
Marshall and Haley Hatton were walking through the park when Thomas and Joshua Murray, the co-defendant in the case, walked past them in the opposite direction, Murray testified Thursday. Once the two pairs passed each other, Thomas turned around and shot Marshall in the back. Marshall fell to the ground and Thomas continued to shoot at him, hitting him in the left leg and arm. Thomas and Murray then fled, Murray said.
Murray was arrested on Aug. 14 and Thomas on Aug. 15 and charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Thomas pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Public defender David Wallis called two witnesses to the stand Friday who testified they were with Thomas until 9 p.m. the night of the murder. Deaundre Lewis-Gatewood, testified that he was with Thomas at Amy Samuels’ house, who's the mother of a mutual friend, the entire night of July 14. Samuels said repeatedly under defense questioning that she was not certain about seeing Thomas that night.
Wallis also questioned Heidi Derryberry, who is an investigator for his office, about details Samuels gave her during their one-on-one interview. Derryberry said Samuels told her that Lewis-Gatewood and Thomas were at her house. Samuels testified that she left the house around 10 p.m.
Kristen Samuels, Amy Samuels’ sister, testified she saw Thomas at the house from about 9 to 11 p.m., when she went to bed. Derryberry told the jury that Kristen Samuels said in an interview that she had stayed up “well past midnight,” and that Thomas was there during that time.
But several witnesses, including Murray and Kimberly Huett-Linzie, who said she drove Thomas and Murray to and from the park on the evening of July 14, placed Thomas at the crime scene around the time Marshall was killed.
During her closing argument, Gonzalez made the case that Marshall’s death was due to “retaliation.” Thomas was friends with Bryan Rankin, who was killed in April 2012 by Lamar Mayfield. Marshall was friends with Mayfield, who pleaded guilty for his role in Rankin's death on July 15. Thomas was a passenger in the vehicle Rankin was shot and killed in, according to court documents.
"The retaliation issue is not necessarily directed at the person you're mad at, it's directed at the group," Gonzalez said during her closing argument.
But Wallis countered that Gonzalez's argument didn’t "make any sense" because she was trying to prove "guilt by association” by trying to connect Marshall's death to disputes Thomas' group had with Marshall’s friends.
Wallis filed a motion to waive jury sentencing on the charge of armed criminal action. Crane will hear both sides’ arguments at a hearing a month from now and decide on the sentence, he said.
Crane also gave Wallis 10 extra days to file a motion for a new trial. Wallis will have a total of 25 days to file. Murray's hearing will be Aug. 18, and his trial is set for Aug. 27. Huett-Linzie is charged with hindering prosecution, a class D felony. Her hearing is set for Wednesday.
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