August 21, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
81°F
test

Defendant takes stand, points finger


Teen says he ran away before Lorain man was shot in stomach

ELYRIA — Willie Evans IV denied killing Michael Smith when he took the stand at his murder trial Thursday and pointed the finger at Barry Williams, who a day before had said he saw Evans pointing a gun at Smith just moments before Smith was shot.

Evans, 18, said he didn’t actually see Williams — who cut a deal with prosecutors to testify against Evans in exchange for a reduced prison sentence — pull the trigger because he fled after he saw Williams and Tyrone Young robbing Smith.

BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE
Willie Evans IV looks over at the jury while he is questioned by Lorain County Assistant Prosecutor Tony Cillo.

Young, who is also charged in the case, couldn’t have been the shooter, Evans said, because he saw him also running about the same time the gun went off.

Evans, who was 16 at the time of the killing but is being tried as an adult, said Williams had wanted to rob a drug dealer on the night of April 12, 2006, but he had discouraged the plan and later separated from Young and Williams.

He said he and his uncle were walking near West 18th Street and Washington Avenue in Lorain when they saw Smith being robbed just after midnight April 13.

Evans, who said he lied about what happened when first confronted by police, testified that he is telling the truth now.

“I feel Mr. Smith’s family needs justice,” he said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo scoffed at that, asking why Evans didn’t come forward at the time of the shooting.

“I was fearing for my life at that point in time,” Evans replied.

Cillo accused Evans, who could get life in prison if convicted of aggravated murder and other charges, of lying to save himself.

Evans’ version of events contrasted sharply with that of Williams, who testified that he, Young and Evans had robbed Smith and then forced the 64-year-old retired steelworker into the trunk of his Ford Taurus. Williams said he was fleeing the scene when he looked over his shoulder and saw Evans pointing the gun at Smith. A moment later he heard a gunshot.

Williams’ former cellmate, Henry Cook, backed up what Evans told jurors, testifying Thursday that Williams had confessed to him that he had shot Smith.

“He told me he killed the man,” said Cook, who is serving a five-year prison term on sex, drug, weapons and other charges.

Cook said Williams killed Smith because — during the robbery — Young had called Williams by name.

But Cook wasn’t the only former cellmate to testify Thursday. County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Rothgery cleared the courtroom except for media for the testimony of a 15-year-old Lorain boy, who served time with Evans in the county Juvenile Detention Home.

Rothgery said the boy and his mother told him they feared retribution for the boy’s testimony, which he was reluctant to give because of an unwritten street code against “snitching.” Evans had testified earlier that snitches could face retaliation — including being killed — for working with police.

The boy told Lorain police that while he and Evans were in the detention home last September, Evans told him he had killed Smith because he was “running off at the mouth.”

The boy said he didn’t recall saying that, but after reviewing a recording of his conversation with police, he agreed that’s what he told officers.

Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for Monday.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.