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Two witnesses link Phillips to 2012 slaying


Two witnesses testified Monday that they saw Lester Phillips shoot Leroy Collins Jr. on the parking lot of an apartment complex at 1320 S. Maple St. on June 12, 2012.

Phillips, 31, is charged with capital murder in Collins’ death. He has pleaded innocent.

A jury of 11 women and three men, including two alternates, is hearing the trial, which began Monday in First Division Circuit Court with Judge Berlin C. Jones presiding.

Tony Martin, who is known on the street as “Dred” because he formerly wore his hair in dreadlocks, told Deputy Prosecutor Cymber Gieringer he had driven Collins to the apartment complex after the two had been robbed at another location while attempting to buy drugs.

“I seen him shoot Mr. Collins,” Martin said.

“Who did you see?” Gieringer asked. “Phillips,” Martin said.

Asked if he had seen Collins or anyone else on the parking lot of the apartment complex with a gun, Martin said “no.”

Collins, 35, was shot once in the head and was taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The final witness of the day, Alvin Glover, who is serving a prison sentence on drug and weapons charges, as well as a parole violation, testified that he was sitting in his car on the parking lot of the apartments and “heard a click, a gun went off and I saw Collins fall.”

“Who had the gun?” Deputy Prosecutor Rik Ramsey asked Glover, who was arrested two days after the shooting at the same apartment complex, and gave an initial statement to police about a week later. In that statement, Glover did not say he was on the parking lot or that he witnessed the shooting.

Attorney John Cone of the Public Defender’s Office hammered Glover about that omission during cross-examination, getting Glover to admit he “had lied to police.”

In December, Glover was interviewed a second time and provided more information, including telling police he saw the shooting and had driven Phillips and a second man, who was identified as a cousin of Phillips, away from the scene and dropped them off at a house on the west side of the city.

“Lester had a gun, jumped in my car and I went to the west side where I dropped him off,” Glover said.

Asked why he didn’t tell police the truth the first time, Glover said: “The first time, I didn’t want to get wrapped up in it.”

Glover also contradicted Martin’s claim that Collins did not have a gun, telling Cone “when I saw him, he had a gun.”

The first officer on the scene, Dustin Summers, who now works for the White Hall Police Department, said the ambulance crew was working on Phillips. Summers said that before the ambulance left, “the side door of the ambulance opened and the EMTs said they had found a handgun in Collins’ waistband.”

That gun, a 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun, was one of four recovered during the investigation, but none of them were determined to be the murder weapon.

Two of the guns were recovered from a van that was occupied by some of Collins’ relatives who had gone to the hospital. One of them, Mark Sykes, testified that he had gone to get a gun after “they killed my uncle (Collins).”

Sykes and another person who was in the van were tested for gunshot residue while being questioned by detectives. Asked why by Ramsey, Sykes said “I guess they wanted to see if I killed my uncle.”

“Were you arrested?” Ramsey asked. “No sir,” Sykes said.

Sykes testified that he was at Collins’ apartment on West Barraque Street when he heard Collins, Phillips and Martin “talk about a business venture.

“Phillips wanted some drugs and wanted Collins and Dred (Martin) to go get them,” Sykes said.

Asked by Cone if Collins sold drugs, Sykes said no, but acknowledged that Collins would know where to buy them.

“Just because he knew where they were at doesn’t make him a drug dealer,” Sykes said.

Asked by Cone if he had ever seen Collins with a gun, Sykes said no. Before being admonished by Jones, Sykes continued, telling Cone: “Everybody’s got one,” then “Don’t you have one?”

Collins’ widow, Pearl, said she was at home with him on the day of the shooting, and after he left for about 30 minutes, he returned with Martin and Phillips in a gray van that Martin was driving.

She said her husband and Martin left again, and Phillips stayed at their apartment until shortly after her son got a phone call from her husband, who said he had been robbed.

“I heard the whole conversation,” she said. “My phone was on speaker.”

Pearl Collins said Phillips asked to use her phone and walked outside while he made the call, then went outside and waited until Martin picked him up in the van.

When he testified, Martin said he picked Phillips up about a block from the apartment.

“Did you ever see your husband with a pistol?” Cone asked Pearl Collins. She said no, then said the gun police recovered from his body belonged to her.

She also said she did not know Collins had taken her gun.

Detective Jeremy Funderburg, who was lead detective in the case, testified that there was no blood trail on the parking lot that led to any particular apartment, and no gun was ever found on Phillips.

Also testifying was crime scene technician Cathy Ruhl, who said there were no usable fingerprints found at the scene, and crime scene technician Erin Mothershed, who assisted in the search of Phillips’ apartment and testified that she found a pair of shorts and a pair of socks, both with “reddish brown stains on them.”

Those items and others were sent to the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory for examination and prosecutors are expected to call the State Medical Examiner and Crime Laboratory personnel when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

If Phillips is convicted of capital murder, he would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.