By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — The family of a young mother shot to death in her Riverdale home broke down several times during testimony and when photos of the crime scene were presented to the jury Tuesday.
Corrissa Friends-Jeffery, 21, was shot several times early in the morning of Aug. 11, 2010. She was found face-up on the floor between her bed and the wall by Riverdale police officers responding to a 911 call. Her estranged husband, Wisdom Jeffery, 40, is on trial this week for murder in her death.
Robert Kersey, who was a Riverdale police officer at the time, testified he arrived at the scene so quickly gunsmoke wafted out the door when he went inside.
"The dead bolt was engaged so we had to force entry," said Kersey. "We had guns drawn at that point. We detected the smell of gunpowder immediately. It was overwhelming."
Kersey testified that he had just left the Church Street apartment about an hour before the shooting. The couple was separated and Jeffery was out on conditional bond after being arrested for simple battery on Friends-Jeffery. The conditions were that he stay away from his estranged wife and away from the apartment they'd shared in College Park.
Friends-Jeffery called police on her way home from work the night of Aug. 10 because she suspected Jeffery was inside her apartment. Kersey responded and found him inside sleeping. He was given a chance to get a change of clothes and a toothbrush and a ride across the street to the police department to wait on a ride to stay elsewhere, Kersey testified.
Instead, Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers alleged Jeffery walked back to the apartment and killed the mother of his baby daughter.
At several points during Tuesday's testimony, Friends-Jeffery's relatives burst into tears, overwhelmed with emotion. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Cecil Hutchins testified as an expert on crime scene investigation and blood patterns. He identified photos of items found at the scene. One photo was of Friends-Jeffery, her eyes and mouth open in stunned surprise, her long flowing hair spread out around her head. Hutchins identified a ballcap in one of her hands.
A previous witness testified to seeing Jeffery just hours before, wearing a ballcap.
Hutchins also found the 12-gauge shotgun believed to have been used to kill her.
Friends-Jeffery's grandmother, Patricia Friends, testified to begging Jeffery to just leave her granddaughter, including the last time she talked to him.
"He was so angry that night still," said Friends. "He said, 'I don't know what I'm going to do.' He was so angry. I said, 'Leave her. Just leave her.'"
Friends-Jeffery's best friend testified Tuesday morning that the victim predicted dying at the hands of her estranged husband. An often-emotional Ashley Layfield took the stand as the state's first witness.
Layfield, 24, testified that the victim wasn't secretive about the alleged abuse she suffered at Jeffery's hands.
"She told me he boxed her like a man, bashed her head on the couch and she was afraid she had a concussion," said Layfield. "I told her not to go back to the apartment without her dad or the police. She cried and said, 'He's gonna kill me one day.'"
Layfield said Jeffery seethed with jealousy, convinced the much-younger Friends-Jeffery rekindled her relationship with a high school boyfriend. But Layfield denied the assumption under direct examination by Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers. That belief was backed up by Friends-Jeffery's uncle, Corey Friends, who took the stand after Layfield.
"Wisdom accused her but she said she did not," said Friends.
Police said Jeffery fled the scene after allegedly shooting his extranged wife and was captured in February in Ohio. He was extradited to Georgia and is being held in the Clayton County Jail.
Arrest warrants issued to Riverdale police by the Clayton Magistrate Court allege that Jeffery broke into the Chateau Forest Phase II apartment the two shared after being ordered to stay away.
Friends-Jeffery called Clayton County 911 the first time that night about midnight. Riverdale police arrested Jeffery but he was released within hours. A second call was made to 911 about 2 a.m.
According to the warrant, Friends-Jeffery can be heard on the 911 call telling Jeffery to "Get the hell out the house. Get out the (expletive deleted) house, Wisdom, now. Get out the house."
Friends-Jeffery gave a partial address, shouted, "Don't shoot," in a muffled voice, and screamed before the phone went dead, according to the warrant. When police arrived, they found Friends-Jeffery dead from multiple gunshots. Jeffery was gone.
Their only child, Casey Nicole Friends, was with relatives the night her mother died.
According to a synopsis of the case on "America's Most Wanted," Friends-Jeffery was a high school student when she met the much-older Jeffery. He walked into her family's business, Southern Friends Car Wash, to have a few luxury cars washed. He reportedly was smitten by the teenager and a relationship blossomed.
Jeffery worked on a BET reality show, "Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is," and allegedly used his proximity to celebrities to show the younger Friends-Jeffery the glamourous side of life.
"The fancy cars, the night-clubbing, the money, being around a lot of people, he introduced her to that," said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jonathan Spurlock on one of the "AMW" episodes. "She was a very young lady when they met and she was very impressionable, so he wanted to impress her with those things. And he did."
Spurlock is expected to testify during the trial which could take most of the week. Powers said at the end of Tuesday's testimony she has eight witnesses left. Wednesday's witnesses are expected to provide testimony on Jeffery's alleged flight from justice, said Powers.