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Witness' accounts vary in double-murder trial

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

The integrity of the police investigation into the 2006 shooting deaths of two Ellenwood men was called into question by defense attorneys Friday, during the murder trial of two co-defendants in Clayton County Superior Court.

Co-defendants, Gary Hakeem Brown, 25, and Kevin Michael Brewington, 24, are accused of shooting to death Norris Degree and Stanley Brown on March 20, 2006, at the Cobblestone Flats Apartments, located at 2445 Rex Road in Ellenwood.

Tyrone Vincent Brown, 27, is also charged in the case. He was scheduled to go on trial this week with the other two co-defendants. However, his attorney, Loletha Denise Hale, was held in contempt of court and jailed on Monday and her client's case was postponed.

The lead detective in the case, Clayton County Police Detective Larry White, testified for the prosecution Friday.

White testified that he met with the manager of the Cobblestone Flats Apartments, Jackie Green, the day after the murders.

He said the name of a resident in the complex, Shannon Dean, came up during the discussion.

White did not elaborate on the conversation, but in a warrantless arrest affidavit he filed in Clayton County Magistrate Court, he did give further details.

"Management staff did advise this investigator the problem apartments in the complex had been U5 and R2," he wrote.

Dean lived in unit R2, according to testimony in the trial.

As a result of his discussion with Green, White said he sought to locate Dean.

According to the affidavit, when White located Dean, she stated that she had witnessed the murders, and named Brewington, Gary Brown and Tyrone Brown as the perpetrators.

During cross-examination of White on Friday, Brewington's defense attorney, Mawuli Mel Davis, pointed out inconsistencies in Dean's statements, which White conceded did exist.

Initially, on March 20, 2006, Dean told police that she did not see the shootings, White said on the stand.

However, on March 27, Dean told White that she was coming back from the mailbox the night of the murders, and saw five men having a conversation. She said she later saw sparks coming from a gun one of the co-defendants was holding, according to White.

On May 3, White picked up a written statement from Dean, which she had prepared and signed outside of his presence, White testified in court.

In the written statement, Dean said she was leaving her apartment, on the way to the mailbox, and when she started to walk down the stairs, she saw Norris Degree and Stanley Brown lying on the ground, with three men standing over them and shooting.

When asked in court about the different versions of the witness' statements, White said "there are some slight variations."

Davis also asked White about Dean's cousin, Jackie Howard, who allegedly told White that the murders were the result of a robbery gone bad.

"She [Howard] told you the three perpetrators had been staying in the apartment with Shannon Dean?"

"Correct," White responded.

White testified that he checked the names, histories and photographs of the three men that lived with Dean, but took no action beyond that.

Davis asked White whether he believed he had conducted a poor investigation. White said no.

"Everybody in this room is human. I've made a mistake ... I'm sure the judge has made a mistake. Did I make a mistake? Sure," White said on the stand.

Later in the trial on Friday, prosecutors called to the stand state crime lab firearms scientist, Francis Jarvis.

Earlier testimony had revealed that two rifles and four handguns were discovered in the Cobblestone Flats apartment where Brewington and Tyrone Brown lived, and were arrested.

Jarvis said ballistics tests showed that bullets fired during the murders were fired from guns that were submitted to him in the case.

However, he said two of the guns were improperly sealed, according to crime lab standards.

The state rested its case on Friday. The defense is scheduled to begin presenting its case Monday morning at 9 a.m., according to the district attorney's office.