Jurors heard testimony from several witnesses, including a detective and a forensic pathologist, on day two of a trial in the 2014 murder of Brandon Terell Smith.
Stephon Averill Rogers, 27, is charged with first-degree murder in the case. If convicted, Rogers faces a possible life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Smith died after attending a house party on Sept. 21, 2014. The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office responded at approximately 5:25 a.m. that day to a report of a victim on the side of Gum Road in Greenville. When they arrived, they found Smith’s body.
Smith had been shot multiple times. According to authorities, Smith and Rogers had attended a party together and before the shooting, got into an argument.
During the morning session of testimony, state witnesses Shaquilla Smith and Latoya Brown took the stand. Both had attended the house party.
During their testimony, Smith and Brown gave accounts of how they found out Brandon Smith had been shot.
Both women admitted to drinking and admitted they fabricated the first story they told police because they didn’t want to be involved. They said they corrected their accounts after detectives noted their stories weren’t adding up.
Both women testified that after leaving the party they went to Bethel but made a stop at Moyewood Apartment where they saw Rogers with a gun. Rogers allegedly said, “I caught a body” and “I got a body,” they said.
Concerned about whether a shooting had taken place, Smith and Brown said they rode back to Gum Road where they discovered Brandon Smith’s body in a ditch.
On the way there, Smith and Brown testified that they planned to tell authorities that they were “riding away from the party and heard gunshots.”
The two women said that after discovering the body, they both checked to see if Brandon Smith had a pulse and called for help 10-15 minutes later, but hung up on dispatchers because they didn’t know exactly where they were.
“The back of his neck was still smoking,” Smith said. “His shirt was bloody. I shook him and I checked to see if he had a pulse. We moved him. There was no life in his body.”
Dr. Karen Kelly, a forensic pathologist with the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, testified that Brandon Smith suffered multiple shotgun wounds to his body, including his back, shoulder, head and neck and the blasts from the gun happened at close range.
As Kelly began showing the images of Brandon Smith to jurors, court was stopped as one jurors aid he could not view the images or listen to the graphic detail of Smith’s injuries. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Marvin Blount excused the man and thanked him for his service before replacing him with an alternate juror.
Kelly noted that shell casings and fragments were recovered from Smith’s heart, thighs, abdomen and skull.
The entry path for most of the wounds was from back to front and Kelly said at the time of Smith’s death, he had his hands up.
Whoever killed Smith did so at close range, given the fact that the high-powered buckshot rounds stayed intact when they entered Smith’s body, Kelly said.
Jurors also heard from Chad Harper, who at the time of Smith’s death was a crime scene investigator for the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
Harper testified that Smith was found in a forward position in a ditch in front of a warehouse on Gum Road near the North State Steel company.
Harper said Smith’s body was found alongside scattered beer cans and at least seven shell casings.
Jurors were shown 28 images that Harper took of the crime scene which took nearly five hours to process.
Towards the end of the day, 39-year-old Kaonte Daniels, a co-defendant in the case who has a pending charge for accessory after the fact to first degree murder, testified that he hosted the party.
Daniels said after kicking people out of the party about 4 a.m., he heard about a commotion going on between three men and a woman, and that one of the men had a gun and was pointing it at another man.
“The defendant (Rogers) had a firearm pointed at (Darius Hawkins), Daniels said. “I tried to diffuse the situation.”
Daniels said Rogers and Hawkins were arguing and he then observed Rogers chasing Brandon Smith before Hawkins sped away.
Daniels said he started heading back toward his house, but heard several shotgun blasts and ducked behind his vehicle.
After Hawkins left, Daniels said Rogers approached him, pointed the shotgun at him and told him to drive to Moyewood Apartments.
Afraid for his safety, Daniels said he complied.
Once at Moyewood, Rogers told Daniels not to leave. While Daniels waited, he observed Brown and Shaquilla Smith drive up and ask Rogers what happened.
Daniels said Rogers told Brown and Smith he “caught a body.”
Daniels said he called his father and uncle before Rogers got back in his vehicle, He said Rogers made him drive to Allen Road, where Rogers was dropped off.
Daniels testified that he later turned himself in to authorities and that Rogers was arrested the same day.
Testimony in the case continues today.