By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — A first-grader mesmerized a Clayton County courtroom Wednesday morning as she recalled interrupting the alleged assault that killed her grandmother and the woman's last words to her.
Zakiya Harvey, 6, took the stand to testify about what she saw and heard the day her grandmother, Alena Marble, was beaten nearly to death and left inside the trunk of her car to die. Zakiya's mother, Kajul Harvey, and her mother's boyfriend, Latoris Grovner, are charged with murder in the case. Grovner's trial started Tuesday.
The girl told a hushed courtroom about seeing Marble and Grovner in the living room.
"She said, 'I'll always love you in Heaven,'" said the child. "She was making noises, a screaming sound. I ran downstairs to get the phone to try to call 911."
Under direct-examination by Assistant District Attorney Katie Powers, Zakiya Harvey claimed Grovner grabbed her by the neck.
"He touched me on my neck with his hands," she said. "It was painful."
The child also testified to seeing Marble, whom she called "Nana," in the trunk of her Honda Civic.
"She was making little squishy sounds," said Zakiya Harvey.
Marble's former neighbor, Mary Smith, also testified Wednesday. She told the jury that Marble was terrified of her daughter and Grovner.
"She was really scared of him," she said. "She talked about it every single day. She wanted to move back to Texas to get away from them. She was afraid of her daughter, that she was going to kill her. They were fighting all the time."
Prosecutors allege Grovner beat Marble with a Smirnoff Ice bottle and a metal saucepan in an argument over money. After the beating, police said Grovner wrapped Marble, who was still alive, in three blankets and put her in the trunk. He then drove the Honda to an apartment complex across the street before he and Harvey walked to a Bank of America to try and access Marble's money, said police.
Clayton County police Officer Carl Stewart testified to finding blood throughout the apartment and Powers presented numerous bloodied household items into evidence. Stewart testified to recovering four human teeth from the area around the couch and several bottles of cleaning products in another room.
Stewart captured the courtroom's attention when he testified about spraying luminol in the living room to find blood evidence. The chemical glows in complete darkness in the presence of blood.
"It lit up like a Christmas tree," he said. "There was a smear pattern from the living room right out the front door and for seven or eight feet beyond, to where the parking spaces are. Then it just stopped."
Follow-up witness Clayton County police Officer Aaron David Fried testified to what he called an "odd" question Zakiya Harvey asked him the day police found Marble's body inside the trunk.
"She asked me if I ever had nightmares," he said. "I told her I did. She said she did as well. She said she had nightmares about killers."