Trial opens in Martinsburg slaying

June 12, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • James G. Cross and Thomas A. Grantham
File photos

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A trial for two defendants accused in the fatal stabbing of one man and the wounding of another began Tuesday in Berkeley County Circuit Court in a case that will see about a dozen witnesses take the stand.

Thomas A. Grantham, 36, of Martinsburg and James G. Cross, 33, of Kearneysville, W.Va., face multiple charges of murder, attempted murder, malicious assault and conspiracy in the fatal stabbing of Andre Jackson, 21, and the wounding of Jacques Taylor on April 23, 2011.

The victims, both of Martinsburg, were attacked on Rock Cliff Drive near Polo Green Drive.

The four got into an argument outside the Brickhouse Bar and Grill at 214 Midland Parkway, according to testimony.

The men and three women — Sheron Kia Yates of Ranson, W.Va., who was in the bar with her sister, Shameka Yates Ford, and their friend, Sharenna Gonzalez, their designated driver — all left the bar when it closed at 3 a.m., according to testimony. The women were not involved in the argument.

Yates testified that she knew Cross from her school days and Grantham only slightly. She didn’t know the victims.

The men had words in the parking lot, Yates told the jury. She said she told them that they all had had a good evening, and it was time for everyone to go home.

She testified that Taylor verbally challenged Grantham and Cross, saying, “If you want to do something you can follow us.”

The defendants drove off with Jackson and Taylor following in their vehicle. The women followed the two vehicles to Rock Cliff Drive in the hopes of stopping any trouble, Yates said.

She told the jury that Grantham and Cross approached the victims’ car and began “punching into it.”  Yates said she and her sister told Grantham and Cross to stop.

Grantham knocked her sister down when he and Cross ran past the women on the way to their car, Yates said.

Jackson got out of his car and stumbled toward a grassy area. Grantham tried to run over him, Yates said.

Two women who were driving by at the time offered to help and were told to call police, Yates said.

She and her sister went to help Jackson, who was bleeding from a stab wound in his side. Yates said when she opened his clothes to check his wounds, “his intestines were hanging out.”

Taylor got out of the car and the women saw that he, too, had been stabbed, but not as seriously as Jackson.

The sisters kept talking to Jackson as he lay on the ground bleeding, telling him help was on the way and “that he would make it,” Yates told the  jury.
“My sister and I stayed there and prayed for him,” she said.

Jackson was pronounced dead in the hospital.

‘He’s dying’
Asked by Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely to identify Cross and Grantham, Yates pointed to Cross, sitting in a white shirt and tie next to Christopher J. Prezioso, his attorney, and Grantham, in a brown suit, sitting with his attorney, Craig Manford.

Yates picked out the defendants in a police photographic lineup the day after the incident, according to testimony.

Yates asked the women who were driving by as Jackson was bleeding on the ground to call for help. The call, recorded by Berkeley County 911, was heard by the jury Tuesday.

The woman who made the call at 3:18 a.m. was heard frantically asking the dispatcher to send an ambulance.

“Please, please, please hurry. He’s bleeding so bad. There’s so much blood. His intestines are hanging out. Oh my God. He’s dying.”

She said: “There are two of ‘em stabbed.”

Games-Neely, in opening statements to the jury, said the defendants and victims didn’t know each other before their argument broke out outside the bar.

“They were wolfing at each other,” she said.

The argument between the men moved from the parking lot of the bar to the parking lot at the Exxon gas station at the intersection of Warm Springs Avenue and Edwin Miller Boulevard and finally to Rock Cliff Drive.

At one point, Taylor yelled to Cross and Grantham to “‘Stop following us. We’re done,’” Games-Neely said.

In their opening statements, Manford and Prezioso pressed home that the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt their clients’ guilt. Manford reminded the panel that “memories fade over time,” and that the defendants should not be found guilty “by association or assumption.”

Presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes earlier denied a defense motion to sever the cases.

It took Tuesday morning to seat a jury of seven women and five men from a pool of 50 prospective jurors.

The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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