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Witness testifies in murder trial Tuesday

Defendant wanted man dead, said police

By Kathy Jefcoats

kjefcoats@news-daily.com

JONESBORO — A man whom police said was the target of a proposed hit testified Tuesday against the defendant who allegedly wanted him dead.

Keith Alexander, 24, was an acquaintance of Denirio Perrell "D-Red" Cunningham and Joseph Irvine Harris and drove them to the apartment complex where a third friend was gunned down in front of his family, said police. Months later, police said Cunningham, 20, and two other people conspired to have Alexander killed.

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Denirio Cunningham

Alexander's sometimes combative testimony was heard after David "Ruck" Rucker's girlfriend, Ashley Gay, took the stand Tuesday afternoon. Gay was emotional and cried during much of her direct examination by Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green. She covered her ears when Green played a recording of the 911 call she made the night Rucker was killed.

Gay testified that she and Rucker and their young children were inside their apartment the night of June 14, 2012, when two men burst inside. She said Rucker, 25, tried to protect his family.

"He said, 'Naw, brah, naw, brah, my kids are in here,'" said Gay. "Then I heard a loud pop like a gunshot."

She said those were the last words Rucker uttered before being gunned down inside their Riverdale home.

Gay described the two men as wearing black masks and gloves and that she never saw their faces. She said the men never spoke. However, she told police that night she thought a man named "Joe," who played football with her brother, was involved.

Alexander took the stand and testified to also knowing a Joe — Joe Harris, 23, of Fayetteville. Alexander said he, Harris and Rucker attended Creekside High School and had known each other seven or eight years. Harris also lived in his neighborhood, said Alexander.

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Joseph Harris

Alexander testified that the night of the shooting, he and Harris had attended an open house at a technical school Alexander was interested in attending. He said Harris asked about being taken somewhere afterward to pick up some clothes.

"I didn't know where we were going," said Alexander. "Joe was giving me turn by turn directions. It wouldn't have made a difference if I'd known where we were going because I knew he hung out at Ruck's house."

Alexander said the pair got out of the truck he was driving and walked toward one of the buildings. After 10-15 minutes, he said they came "storming" back to the truck.

"They jumped in and said, 'Pull off, pull off,'" he said. "They sounded edgy."

Alexander said he asked about what happened three or four times but they wouldn't respond right away. Finally, Harris responded, he said.

"Joe was looking all upset," said Alexander. "He said, 'Stuff got real crazy, it got crazy.' D-Red said he was the shooter. D-Red said, 'I shot him.' I said, 'Who?' Joe said, 'Ruck."

Alexander said the pair told him they were trying to "hit a lick," street slang for a robbery or burglary.

"I looked at Joe disgusted and told them, 'I gotta go,'" he said. "I didn't see a gun."

Alexander testified that he was scared to talk to the police but did so four days later after consulting with his parents and girlfriend.

"It was on my conscience," he said. "I lost a brother in a murder four years ago, it's a cold case, we don't know who killed my brother. I wanted to get closure for Rucker's family."

Under cross-examination by defense attorneys, Alexander seemed confrontational, asking what certain questions had to do with the case and declining to answer until prompted by Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons. The attorneys accused Alexander of being part of the plot to kill Rucker.

Alexander, who declined to leave the witness stand to get a closer look at the defendants, testified he was afraid of what Cunningham and Harris were capable of and that's why he waited to talk to police.

According to prosecutors, Alexander was right to fear Cunningham. Cunningham was indicted in March for his part in allegedly trying to have Alexander killed. Prosecutors allege that Cunningham and Jasmine Kenyatta Williams, 20, of Kankakee, Ill., talked about a scheme to have a third person kill Alexander in recorded calls from Sept. 19 to Oct. 23, 2012, emanating from the Clayton County Jail.

They face charges of criminal attempted murder and criminal solicitation. The pair and Tavarian Derrell Worthy, 24, of Riverdale were also indicted for conspiracy to commit murder.

Testimony in the murder trial continues Wednesday at 9 a.m.