WARRENTON — Despite the fact that he didn’t shoot Komninos “Gus” Karellas, Quinton Canton Jr. should be convicted of first-degree murder for planning the robbery that led to Karellas’ death, state prosecutors said Tuesday.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Irvine argued on the trial’s opening day that the killing was a result of a robbery gone awry, and it was Canton’s accomplice, Lance Berry, who shot Karellas.
Canton and Berry were charged with the Nov. 16, 2004, killing of Karellas in the parking lot behind the G&D Steak House, which Karellas owned. Berry was found guilty of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action last month.
In its opening statement, the prosecution alluded to a confession by Canton, which was taped after his mother, Donna Doyal, persuaded him to tell the truth or “they’ll put a needle in your arm,” a reference to death by lethal injection.
The state called 18 witnesses to testify in an attempt to create a timeline of what happened on the night of Karellas’ death. Sixteen-year-old Casara Henderson, Canton’s girlfriend at the time of the slaying, testified that Canton, Berry, a female friend and she arrived in the parking lot of G&D around 9 p.m. Henderson testified that Canton and Berry left the car for a short period of time. She testified that Canton then got back in the car and drove it to the side of the restaurant and watched Karellas empty the cash register, Henderson testified. Canton then warned Berry that Karellas would be coming out in about five minutes, Henderson testified. She testified that they went to the house of Canton’s mother, Donna Doyal, where they divided the money and disposed of their bloody clothes.
Henderson was not able to say whether she saw Canton with a gun on the night of the slaying. In a statement made to police the day after the killing, she said she saw Canton put a gun in his pocket prior to the robbery. At the trial, however, she disputed the claim.
The defense did nothing to discredit the testimony of the witnesses but opted instead to focus on Canton’s intentions on the night of the killing. During Irvine’s cross-examination of Jason Stade, an officer for Mexico Public Safety, she asked whether he could tell “if there was a plan to fire a gun or not” when he recovered a .45-caliber shell casing at the crime scene on the night of the killing. He testified that he could not.
The prosecution is likely to wrap up its case this morning. Irvine would not say if the defense would call any witnesses or present a case after the prosecution rests. If the jury finds Canton guilty, the trial will then enter a second phase to determine the length of his punishment.
Berry’s appeal for a new trial will be heard Dec. 6. If his appeal is not granted then he will be sentenced that day.
Doyal admitted to burning checks that were taken during the robbery and telling Berry to get rid of bloody clothing. Last May she pleaded guilty to four counts of tampering and two counts of hindering prosecution.