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Witness in murder trial changes his story on stand

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A co-defendant and state witness in the first-degree murder trial of Anfernee D. Knight told a different story Thursday than the one he gave detectives more than a year ago. And oftentimes, Donnel V. Hill became combative when answering questions from the prosecution.

Hill testified that Knight didn’t run between the duplex apartments near Parkview Street on the night of July 23, 2014. He said while he and another co-defendant sat in the car, Knight got out to smoke a cigarette.

“Who told you to say that?” prosecutor Joel Stadiem asked Hill.

No one, Hill said.

Stadiem asked Hill if he or any of his family members had been threatened before he took the stand.

Hill said no.

Stadiem pointed to a crowd of more than 20 people who have been seated on the defense side watching the trial. He then read aloud a list of names and asked Hill if he knew them and if they were a part of the MOB/Snowden Drive gang.

More bailiffs than usual have been seen inside the Wilson County courtroom throughout the week. Each one watches the onlookers carefully.

Hill denied knowing anyone other than his brothers.

THREATS AND INTIMIDATION

Later on, outside the presence of the jury, Stadiem told the court that he was “very surprised” at Hill’s testimony. He also said Hill had been threatened in the past, and it’s one of the reasons he’s been moved from the Wilson County Jail to the Franklin County Jail.

Stadiem told the judge that Hill had made consistent statements until taking the witness stand Thursday. He said there had been threats and intimidation during the trial, which included someone throwing a brick at a window of witness’ family member’s home. Stadiem also said that someone threatened to kill a family member of a witness. He did not divulge who that witness was.

Knight, 20, sat back and watched as testimony unfolded. He is being tried in connection to the death of 7-year-old Kamari Jones, who was struck in the head by a stray bullet in his Parkview Street bedroom on July 23, 2014.

Knight is also on trial for several other charges including attempted first-degree murder and discharging a weapon into an occupied vehicle stemming from a separate shooting near the National Grocery on Stantonsburg Circle two hours prior where Antonio Pate was injured. Prosecutors have said one shooting led to another and stemmed from gang conflict that resulted in retaliation.

‘I’M ASKING YOU TO TELL THE TRUTH’

Hill testified he was driving the car that evening when they parked near National Grocery. Shots were fired at them and that’s when investigators say Knight, who was in the back passenger seat, fired back with a 9 mm gun.

“I didn’t see anyone in the car shoot back,” Hill testified.

Stadiem reminded Hill he was under oath and instructed him to tell the truth. Hill said he was telling the truth.

Stadiem pressed Hill and asked him if he remembered telling investigators in a written statement with his lawyer present that there were shots coming from the back seat where Knight was sitting at the time of the National Grocery shooting.

“I told you what you wanted to hear,” Hill snapped.

“I’m asking you to tell the truth,” Stadiem continued.

“You just don’t want to hear the truth,” Hill continued.

STARMOUNT CIRCLE

Hill testified that he, Knight and Demetrius Spells drove to Starmount Circle. Stadiem asked if another car was out there. He said Ceantre Spells was there in a different car along with Montavius S. Davis and Kenneth T. Vinson.

Hill claimed he never saw Knight with a gun that night at Starmount Circle, but he did hear several shots fired from two different guns at the scene.

“I don’t know nothing about no 9 mm,” Hill said.

But that’s not what he told Wilson Police Detective Glenn Neal, who testified that Hill said Knight, Davis and Vinson ran between the apartment duplexes. And that Knight had a 9 mm gun when he got out of the car that night.

Hill has said he didn’t see him shoot the gun because he was in the car.

Stadiem asked him if he recalled telling police that when they left Starmount Circle, Knight said in the car that he needed to get his gun back because he gave it to Vinson.

“You witnessed Vinson give Knight his gun back,” Stadiem said.

Hill denied it.

DIFFERENT STORY

Stadiem asked Hill if he remembered investigators asking him if he was afraid to testify.

“I probably said, no,” he said. “I’m not scared of nobody.”

“Why are you changing your statement then from (what) you gave to us earlier?” Stadiem asked.

“Because today, I’m being sworn in to tell the truth,” Hill replied.

Hill later testified that he wasn’t a member of a gang. Stadiem asked if it was true that he previously told police that several co-defendants including Knight were part of the MOB gang.

He said he couldn’t speak for them.

Stadiem asked if he had seen the tattoos on Knight’s hand. He said he has. Those tattoos read M.O.B.

Stadiem asked Hill what that stood for.

He said, “money over bitches.”

“The story you told on the stand is different than the one you’ve been telling us for the past year,” Stadiem said.

“Yes, sir,” Hill replied. “I was telling you a lie then.”

DEAL OR NO DEAL

Hill, who was also charged in Kamari’s death, also faced more than a dozen charges, including several counts of attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicles, all stemming from the National Grocery shooting.

Hill has pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder. All other charges are slated to be dismissed, but that deal hinges on the requirement that he testify truthfully.

Knight’s attorney, Tom Sallenger, asked Hill during cross-examination if he was under oath those times he spoke to police.

Hill said he wasn’t.

“Were you called to testify truthfully?” Sallenger asked.

“Yes, sir,” Hill replied.

“Is that what you’ve done today?” Sallenger continued.

“Yes,” he said.

Stadiem asked Hill if he was aware that if he didn’t tell the truth, his deal would be stricken from the record. He said he understood.

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 265-7879

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