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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2007

Witness describes murder of 2 people during North Toledo drug deal

Extending his left hand forward and twisting it to the side, Latrel Brown yesterday demonstrated from the witness stand the way he said Tyrone Johnson was holding the gun the day he shot two people to death.

In the second day of testimony in Johnson's murder trial, Brown was brought into the Lucas County Common Pleas courtroom in a jail-issued jumpsuit and shackles.

He testified for nearly two hours yesterday about what happened in a white Pontiac Bonneville on Sept. 19, when Tammy Cappelletty and Juan Ybarra were killed.

Brown testified that Johnson pulled a gun from between his legs, cocked it, and shot Ms. Cappelletty and Mr. Ybarra in the sides of their heads.

"It looked like he touched his face," Brown said of the gun Johnson allegedly held to Mr. Ybarra's head. "She starts to scream. He turns the gun on her."

Johnson, 28, of 11 East Park St., is charged with two counts of aggravated murder and one count of aggravated robbery. He is accused of killing Ms. Cappelletty, 30, of South Toledo, and Mr. Ybarra, 24, of East Toledo, who were found shot in the head in a car at Baker and Locust streets in North Toledo.

Andrew Lastra, a county assistant prosecutor, said during his opening arguments Monday that the incident began as a drug deal taking place inside Ms. Cappelletty's car.

He said Brown and Johnson got into the backseat of the car that Ms. Cappelletty was driving and that the four drove for a short distance before Johnson told her to stop.

It was then that Johnson pulled a gun and shot the victims, Brown said.

Defense attorney Matt Fech questioned Brown about the plea agreement that he made with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony. In particular why he pleaded to a robbery charge when he said he didn't steal anything from the car.

Brown pleaded no contest to aggravated robbery, including a specification that a gun was used in the crime, and was found guilty by Judge James Jensen. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

Brown responded that because he had set up the exchange, he knew he would be implicated somehow in the crime. Mr. Fech then asked why Brown agreed to testify in January, more than four months after he was arrested.

"He was trying to set me up. Johnson was trying to set me up for the homicides," he said. "He gave a statement to the police saying I shot those two people."

Included in his testimony, Brown spoke of his involvement in dealing drugs and the culture that surrounds making a deal.

In particular, Mr. Lastra asked him questions about how deals are set up and whether clients need to be "vouched" for before they are trusted.

Brown testified that he had sold drugs to Johnson for several years. He said he met Mr. Ybarra in June, 2006, through a mutual friend. The Sept. 19 meeting was the first time Johnson and Mr. Ybarra ever met, Brown said.

During opening arguments, attorneys for the defense suggested that it was not Johnson but Brown who pulled the trigger.

Yesterday, Mr. Fech asked about Brown's drug business and whether his territory was being infringed on by Mr. Ybarra, who was selling drugs at a cheaper rate.

Although admitting that he had heard of instances where dealers hurt other dealers encroaching on their business, Brown said he did not consider Mr. Ybarra a competitor but, instead, a supplier.

Other witnesses who testified yesterday included residents of the North Toledo area who saw the people involved.

The jury trial will resume today in Judge Jensen's courtroom.



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