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Trial opens in tavern shooting

June 12, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The prosecution and defense agreed on one thing as the murder trial of Timothy J. Ross began Monday in Franklin County Court: Ross shot and killed Drake Luckett.

The decision left to the jury of eight men and four women is the degree of guilt.

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney David Rahauser told the jury it was first-degree murder, while defense co-counsel David Yoder argued the shooting could have been third-degree murder or a justifiable shooting.

"He said, 'I ain't shoot nobody,'" Chambersburg Police Detective Scott Mummert said during testimony Monday.

Mummert said Ross, 26, also told him after he was taken into custody, "I don't even own a gun."

Mummert testified Ross denied shooting Luckett even before he had been told how Luckett died.

Luckett, 34, of 217 Linden Ave., was shot in the chest and hand at about 10:45 p.m. on March 1, 1999, as he opened the Catherine Street door of Dave's Tavern at 401 S. Main St. The prosecution presented witnesses, including Ross' uncle, Kenneth Mellott, who testified he and Luckett argued shortly before the shooting.

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In his opening statement, Rahauser said the shooting arose out of a misunderstanding. Ross, who is white, introduced himself to Luckett, who was black, using "a racial slur of the strongest order," Rahauser said.

"Mr. Luckett took offense to being called that name," Rahauser said, although he said race was not a factor in the case. Despite that, Rahauser said the shooting was a "premeditated, willful and intentional killing."

Luckett's fianc, Tamra Lidie, said the couple had just moved to Chambersburg from Hagerstown and went out that night with a friend, Edna Woods of Hagerstown. Lidie said the argument escalated when Woods tried to go to the bathroom.

Woods testified Ross and two Hispanic men wouldn't let her in the bathroom and pushed her around. At one point, she said Ross pushed her up against a pinball machine and she saw a gun in the waistband of his pants.

Lidie testified she saw a man pass the gun to Ross. After Ross left the bar through the Catherine Street door, she said she tried to restrain Luckett from following him.

"Drake, don't go out there. He's got a gun," Lidie testified she told him. She said people in the bar were taunting Luckett to go outside.

When Luckett pushed open the door, Lidie said, she saw Ross running down Catherine Street firing a handgun. Luckett turned around, staggered to the bar and collapsed, she said.

On cross-examination by Yoder, Lidie said Luckett wore a necklace with a small handgun "charm," but that he never carried a weapon.

Yoder asked her if she knew Luckett had been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon. Rahauser objected and Judge John R. Walker told the jury to disregard the statement.

Mellott, a bartender at Dave's Tavern and Ross' uncle, testified he heard Ross tell Luckett, "I got something for you," about five minutes before the shooting. Mellott said he told Ross to leave the bar.

On cross-examination by Ross' co-counsel, Thomas Diehl, a borough police officer, Rick Morrisette, said there was no search of the bar for weapons immediately after the shooting.

The suspected murder weapon, a .38-caliber revolver, was found in a vacant lot near the tavern the next day, according to testimony. Also found in the lot was a jacket several witnesses said Ross was wearing the night of the shooting.

Rahauser said he would introduce testimony from a police ballistics expert and gunpowder residue expert today. In his opening statement, he said there was gunpowder residue on the jacket found in the lot and on the pants Ross was wearing when he was taken into custody.

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