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Victim’s cousin recalls finding him dead: Testimony begins in 2017 murder trial

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Veronika Locus saw the flashing lights in the distance. As she got closer to her Lincoln Street home, she saw the yellow crime scene tape.

“Inside the yellow tape, I saw my cousin laying on the ground,” Locus said. “When I got there, EMS was trying to bring him back.”

But when she saw emergency personnel bring out a white sheet, she knew it was to no avail.

“I just started screaming,” she told jurors through tears.

Locus was one of several people who testified Wednesday in the first-degree murder trial of Ramone Malone-Bullock, who is accused of killing her cousin, 31-year-old Harry Beecher, outside her Lincoln Street home on April 2, 2017.

Prosecutors say what started as a birthday party for Locus’ daughter on April 1 turned deadly shortly after midnight when a card game led to a dispute between Malone-Bullock and Beecher over money.

Prior to Beecher’s killing, Locus held a birthday party for her daughter a local community center. Hours later, the party carried over to her house where several people began drinking and playing cards for money, including Beecher and Malone-Bullock. Locus testified that a fight between the two men ensued and punches were thrown.

Locus said she and the father of her child, Devanta Jamal Battle, broke up the fight.

“It looked like his eyes were bulging out of his head,” Locus of Malone-Bullock. She also testified that he told Beecher he was going to kill him.

Locus said Malone-Bullock’s girlfriend, Jatoria Grice, and Grice’s cousin had just driven up when they got Malone-Bullock outside. She said he got in Grice’s car and left.

THE NIGHT UNFOLDS

Grice testified Wednesday that her cousin was driving the car when they left the Lincoln Street home. But eventually, Malone-Bullock got behind the wheel.

Grice told jurors that while Malone-Bullock wasn’t saying anything, he was speeding down Raleigh Road Parkway at 120 mph. Grice, who was nine months pregnant with Malone-Bullock’s child, said she told him she wanted to get out of the car.

Grice said Malone-Bullock dropped her and her cousin off at the Shell gas station on Raleigh Road Parkway and they walked to Walmart. Malone-Bullock continued on toward U.S. 264. That’s when Grice called Locus to pick her up because she needed a ride. Eventually, Locus got to Walmart, but Grice’s other cousins were already there to give her a ride home.

That’s when Locus left and returned to her home on Lincoln Street to find her cousin lying on the ground with a gunshot wound, according to testimony. Malone-Bullock’s attorney, Tom Sallenger, asked Locus if she saw anyone with a gun when the group of people were at her home that night. She said she didn’t.

THE GUN

Malone-Bullock’s cousin, William Saxton, also testified. He said on the morning of April 1, 2017, prior to the birthday party held near Lincoln Street, he and Malone-Bullock shot his Taurus .380-caliber handgun at a barrel in his yard out in the country.

Saxton, under questioning from Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Joel Stadiem, told the court his cousin asked him if he could buy the gun from him. Saxton testified that he said no.

Saxton said he did let Malone-Bullock take the gun with him down to their grandfather’s house on Crepe Myrtle Road in Wilson — about a half-mile from where Saxton lived on Packhouse Road.

Saxton said he never saw his cousin again that day and that Malone-Bullock returned the gun on Sunday while he was at work. Saxton said he didn’t look at the gun until Wilson police detectives came to his home the following day.

He testified that’s when he noticed there were no bullets in the chamber. Bullock testified he was nervous when detectives interviewed him that first time and didn’t tell them his cousin had the gun. Detectives eventually returned to interview Saxton in December 2017, when he then admitted he let his cousin, “hold” the gun.

‘THE VERY GUN OFFICERS WERE LOOKING FOR’

Under cross-examination, Sallenger pressed Saxton and also pointed out discrepancies in what he told police the day after the shooting and what he told police in December 2017. Sallenger asked Saxton if he initially told police he was in possession of the gun the entire time. Saxton testified he did.

Sallenger noted Saxton’s response when detectives asked whether there was a chance his cousin, Malone-Bullock, went to Saxton’s home and got the gun while he wasn’t at home.

“No way in hell,” Sallenger said Saxton told detectives.

Saxton testified he had never met Beecher nor did he know what was going on when police questioned him the day after the shooting.

Detectives also asked Saxton if he loaned his cousin the gun during the April 2017 interview. He told them he didn’t, according to testimony.

Sallenger suggested during cross-examination that Malone-Bullock came back to Saxton’s house that night after the fight ensued with Beecher and Saxton told him he would take care of it, a claim Saxton denied on the witness stand.

Sallenger continued to suggest Saxton was the one who went to the home on Lincoln street and that he shot Beecher.

Beecher said he didn’t shoot and kill Beecher, whom he said he didn’t know, and testified that he never went to the Lincoln Street home that night.

Roughly a month after the shooting, Saxton sold the gun used in Beecher’s death.

“The very gun the officers were looking for ...,” Sallenger argued.

Saxton said he sold the gun to someone he knew from work because he was going on probation for selling heroin. Saxton said he even had a makeshift receipt he wrote for the purchase, which showed the purchaser, date of sale and amount.

“Did you shoot and kill Harry Beecher?” Sallenger asked.

“No,” Saxton replied.

‘I GOT SHOT’

On redirect, Stadiem pointed out that Saxton didn’t get rid of the gun by throwing it into the lake or woods, nor did he alter or remove the serial number. Stadiem said Saxton told detectives where the gun was and to whom he sold it.

“Would you have done that if you had killed Harry Beecher?” Stadiem asked.

“No, I wouldn’t,” Saxton replied.

Stadiem then asked what happened to Saxton in May 2018 after he cooperated with police.

“I got shot,” Saxton testified.
Testimony will resume Thursday. Superior Court Judge Lamont Wiggins is presiding over the trial.

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