Keshawn Jennings, left, and Antwaine Jones, right, stand at the defendants table after opening statements in the murder case of 1-year-old Keondra Hooks, who was shot to death in the Moody Manor apartments, at the Lucas County Courthouse.
Describing a “Norman Rockwellish-type” scene in which two young girls were asleep on a comforter in front of glass patio doors, an assistant prosecutor said in court Tuesday the tranquility of that moment was shattered Aug. 9 by gunfire intended for someone altogether different.
When the bullets stopped, 1-year-old Keondra Hooks would be dead, and her 2-year-old sister, Leondra, seriously injured.
“These unbelievable, tragic events that developed, we will show you, occurred because Keshawn Jennings and Antwaine Jones went to the wrong apartment,” Andy Lastra told jurors in Lucas County Common Pleas Court during his opening statements in the two men’s trial.
He said Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones were members of the Manor Boyz, a gang affiliated with the Bloods, and that a rival Crips gang member was at the Moody Manor apartments that night. Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones, he said, were going “to go take care of business.”
Mr. Jennings, 21, of 244 Wasaon St. and Mr. Jones, 19, of 3145 Cottage Ave. each are charged with aggravated murder, murder, improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation, attempted murder, and four counts of felonious assault, each with gun specifications.
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Mr. Lastra told the jury much of the evidence would be circumstantial, that while they would see surveillance video of the men at the complex that night, they would not hear anyone say they saw them pull the trigger. Much of the account of what happened that night, he said, would come from James “J.T.” Moore, 21, of 2037 W. Terrace View St., a co-defendant indicted with Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones who is not on trial.
Mr. Moore reached a plea agreement with prosecutors that requires him to testify — a point defense attorneys pounced on during their opening statements.
“When you look at James Moore, you will see his plea agreement: three years. Three years. All he has to do is put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Paul Geller, attorney for Mr. Jones, told the jury.
Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones face up to life in prison if they are convicted.
Mr. Geller held up four compact discs representing Mr. Moore’s statements, which he called lengthy and filled with deception.
“Lies, lies, lies,” Mr. Geller said, telling the jury, “Police did a lot of work, and the reason they made the deal with J.T. is they’re hoping you believe him.”
Defense attorney Beau Harvey, who represents Mr. Jennings, told the jury that Mr. Moore lied for months to police about the Moody Manor shooting, so why should anyone believe him now that he’s changed his story?
He said police were at the crime scene within minutes of the shooting, collecting evidence, yet none of that evidence could be linked through DNA to Mr. Jennings. Mr. Harvey said the trial would leave jurors with more questions than answers.
“At the end [of the trial], you’re going to be able to conclude one thing: that there was in fact a shooting. That’s it,” Mr. Harvey said. “You’re not going to be able to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that my client was involved in the shooting, that he had a gun.”
Before opening statements were delivered, the jury of eight women and four men were taken by bus to the housing complex on Kent Street near Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center where the shooting occurred.
A court representative pointed out the apartment where the little girls were shot, a second-floor window of an adjacent building, and the security cameras posted on the buildings across the yard from the murder scene. The bus also transported jurors down nearby Vermont Street where Mr. Moore allegedly drove the van that Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones got into after the shooting.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. today.
Mr. Jennings and Mr. Jones are being held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $5 million bond.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.