Man on trial for killing woman in 2016 drive-by shooting
By Tyler Stocks
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Terrisha Speight and her 58-year-old mother were watching TV together On the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2016, when the unthinkable happened.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Speight's mother, Karen, stood up, then quickly dropped to the living room floor of her apartment.
Karen Speight had been shot. She later died at Vidant Medical Center.
On Tuesday, a trial began for the man charged with her death.
Prosecutor Anthony Futrell told jurors during opening statements that a stray bullet took the life of Karen Speight and that the man responsible is 26-year-old Kenquonis Niqua McKenzie.
McKenzie is charged with first-degree murder in the case and faces a possible life sentence without the possibility of parole if convicted.
Futrell said that McKenzie pulled up in a black Honda CRV, exited the front passenger door and begin firing toward an upstairs apartment of a building in the 100 block of Concord Drive.
During the incident, one of the bullets went through the front door of Karen Speight's apartment and struck her in the head.
After his opening statements, Futrell had Terrisha Speight testify while he handed jurors a photograph of her mother.
Speight fought back tears as she described the incident.
She told jurors that the gunfire sounded like firecrackers and that her mother's head was bleeding.
While on the phone with 911, Speight said she tried to roll her mother over and summoned neighbors to help so that CPR could be started.
Police officers arrived within minutes and took over medical care.
Greenville Police Officer Brandon Edgerton took the stand, testifying that that Karen Speight's eyes were closed and that she made gurgling sounds as she tried to breathe.
Jurors who watched body camera footage saw Karen Speight being lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled away.
Edgerton said he saw a bullet hole in the front door. At the scene, Greenville police recovered 12 9mm casings and later determined that Karen Speight was not the intended target.
The driver of the SUV, 23-year-old Octavius Yelverton, is a co-defendant in the case and is charged with accessory to first-degree murder. He testified against Mckenzie.
Yelverton told jurors that he was kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to drive to Concord Drive.
He said that before the kidnapping, he met McKenzie at an apartment on Landmark Street to purchase approximately 3 grams of marijuana.
Yelverton said when he arrived, McKenzie told him he was waiting on the drugs and needed a ride to a convenience store. Yelverton agreed to take him to the store where the men made purchases before coming back to the apartment.
When they returned, Yelverton said McKenzie invited him to hang out in the apartment. He said that after some time had passed, he heard McKenzie talking on the phone. McKenzie became loud, displayed a gun and forced him to drive, Yelverton said.
"He told me where to go and I just listened," Yelverton said.
The two arrived in front of 122 Concord Drive. Yelverton said McKenzie got out, walked to the front of the SUV and began shooting at three boys who were on an upstairs balcony while women, children and elderly residents ran for cover.
Yelverton said he thought about driving away or running McKenzie over but was afraid of being shot at or catching a charge.
Yelverton said within minutes of firing on the apartment building, McKenzie got back in the vehicle, reloaded the weapon and stuck it in his rib cage and told him to drive back to the apartment on Landmark Street.
"I just drove off and did what he said," Yelverton said. "I was just afraid."
Yelverton said once he and McKenzie arrived back at the Landmark Street apartment, McKenzie held him hostage and threatened to kill him if he said anything.
After he was let go, Yelverton said he drove to a friend's house at Lake Ellsworth before going back to his home on Black-Jack Simpson Road.
After reviewing surveillance cameras, police identified Yelverton and McKenzie as suspects and arrested the men on Jan. 4.
During cross-examination, McKenzie's attorney Ernest Conner disputed Yelverton's kidnapping claim arguing that Yelverton was a drug dealer and user who admitted to former Greenville Police Detective Glen Webb that he smoked weed, sold weed and made music.
Conner also introduced into evidence the interview transcript and asked Yelverton if he lied to Webb.
Yelverton said he told the truth and denied selling marijuana. He told Conner that during the interview with Webb, he felt traumatized and overwhelmed.
He later told Conner and jurors that he said some things that weren't true because he wanted to protect himself and his family from harm.
"I did tell (Webb) the truth but didn't go into detail," Yelverton said.
Conner also introduced into evidence pictures of Yelverton's SUV and showed jurors marijuana, a knife, and money that was found in the vehicle nearly five days after the crime.
Yelverton also admitted that he deleted call logs daily from his phone and that he had two different phones. Conner said that sort of behavior is consistent with someone who deals drugs.
Conner also told jurors that police didn't bother to find the deleted data and that only someone with something to hide deletes call logs from their phone.
Testimony in the case will continue today.