December 22, 2014

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Jury begins deliberating in drive-by murder case

Bohannon Miller

Bohannon Miller

ELYRIA — During closing arguments Tuesday in Bohannon Miller’s aggravated murder trial, his defense lawyer, Denise Wilms, said it wasn’t her client who gunned down Marquis McCall during a drive-by shooting on June 22, 2009.

Rather, Wilms suggested that the gunman was Raymond Fowler, a key witness for the prosecution who refused to take the stand after he was allegedly threatened by Miller and members of the McCall family.

“It wasn’t the defendant who was in the car that night,” Wilms said. “It wasn’t the defendant who was the shooter that night.”

Fowler told Lorain police Detective Buddy Sivert that he was a passenger in the gold Ford Taurus used in the shooting and that Miller, who is already imprisoned on drug and gang charges, was the one who fired the gun from the passenger window. McCall was killed in the hail of bullets, while Craig Roberson was wounded.

Wilms argued that Fowler had been telling people in Lorain that he was the one who had killed McCall because “when he fired the gun, he saw him drop.” Wilms said Fowler had gone to police for protection because people were after him and rather than face up to his crimes, he placed the blame on Miller.

But Assistant County Prosecutor Sherry Glass argued that Fowler, whose version of events Sivert related to the jury, wasn’t lying. She said the evidence pointed to Miller, not Fowler, as the shooter.

“(Police) followed the evidence,” she said. “There wasn’t an ax to grind against Bohannon Miller or any of the other three.”

In addition to Fowler and Miller, police believe Dale Atkinson and Larry Blake also were in the car. Blake, the alleged wheelman, also faces aggravated murder charges in the case. He refused to testify against Miller earlier in the trial.

Fowler, who is imprisoned on unrelated charges, reached a deal with prosecutors to cooperate with the prosecution of Miller in exchange for not facing murder or other charges in connection with McCall’s death.

Glass said witnesses had put an armed Miller in the Taurus earlier in the day on Long Avenue, angrily questioning people about who had shot his cousin, Christopher Hill, who later died from his injuries.

“(There were) no specific targets,” Glass said. “It was a revenge shooting.”

Glass also said Miller drove the car to Mercy Regional Medical Center that day to check on Hill, something she argued was backed up by video surveillance footage of Miller at the hospital. Wilms has disputed it is her client in the video.

Glass said another key piece of evidence against Miller was his effort to convince the owner of the Taurus to tell police it had been stolen.

Police recovered the car after a caller reported seeing four men park the vehicle in front of her home and wipe it down before walking away. Officers found a shell casing in the track of the car’s sunroof that matched shell casings recovered from the Long Avenue location where McCall was shot.

But Wilms said although police found the fingerprints of Blake, Fowler and Atkinson on the car, they didn’t find prints belonging to Miller. She also said Miller’s DNA wasn’t found on a green bottle and two shirts that police found during a search of the surrounding area.

Glass said that the lack of scientific evidence tying Miller to the Taurus doesn’t exclude him from having been in the car, adding that Miller admitted to police that he’d been in the car at one point. She also told the jurors that even if they didn’t believe Miller was the shooter if he was in the car at the time of the shooting, he would be just as guilty as whoever pulled the trigger.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours Tuesday before breaking for the day. They are expected to resume their deliberations today.

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