Attorney James Melfi motions in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court as he questions a witness Friday during an evidence suppression hearing. In a jail coverall is murder defendant Kemari James.
WARREN — The prosecution’s key witness in a murder case against the Warren man accused of killing a pregnant woman at her northwest side Warren home in April testified Friday at a hearing to suppress evidence.
Attorneys for Kemari James, 27, want to keep from a jury any evidence secured from a cellphone found at the murder scene.
They also want to eliminate key witness Andre Haynes, 29, who picked out James’ photo from an array set up by police detectives a few hours after the shooting.
James is accused of killing La’Nesha Workman, 26, who was pregnant and died of multiple gunshot wounds after the shooting.
Haynes testified Friday about fighting with the shooter during the April 17 incident at the Ogden Avenue NW home.
Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Peter Kontos said he will take briefs from both sides until Dec. 14 and will make a decision on the evidence prior to a Jan. 4, 2021, pretrial hearing. No trial date has been set.
James has been held in Trumbull County jail in lieu of $2 million bond since May 15 after he was arrested in Baltimore and waived extradition.
The defendant, who last had a Parkman Road SW address, is charged with two counts of murder each with firearms specifications; one count of attempted murder, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of escape and one count of having a weapon as a convicted felon.
If convicted, James faces at least a sentence of 36 years to life, which includes the two 3-year mandatory gun
Friday, Haynes testified James had knocked at the back door while Haynes and Workman were playing video games, having a “family night” with the children. Haynes said Workman was the mother of his son and the unborn child. Another of Workman’s children was also present, Haynes said.
James had asked for a ride to a Parkman Road NW address, Haynes said, and they were talking about “the events of the day.” As Haynes got up to leave, he said he saw a gun held to his face.
“I smacked the gun. I thought he was playing until he said, ‘I’m about to kill you, for real,’” Haynes testified.
Haynes said he learned through “the grapevine” that James had thought he’d stole his television and microwave.
James ordered both Haynes and Workman to their knees, Haynes testified, saying he then heard two shots.
“I thought he shot me, and I fell over,” he said.
After getting up, Haynes testified about struggling with James and the gun — which he identified as a 9 mm model — going off once more. Haynes testified he got his hand on the firing clip, jamming it, he said. The struggle continued out of the house, where Haynes said he managed to lose control of the firearm. Haynes said he wanted to get away and took off running.
Haynes testified he went to four houses in an attempt to call 911.
Haynes said he had treated James like a brother, and the defendant was related to Workman through her father.
Also testifying was Taylor Romain, a Warren police officer who was the administrator of the photo array in which Haynes picked out James as the shooter. Romain testified Haynes said he was “200 percent sure” that James was the man.
Workman’s mother April Riggins, 42, testified about finding an Android cellphone under the television stand while cleaning out the Ogden Avenue home about 12 days after Workman was killed. She said she found out after recharging the cellphone that it belonged to James, and she turned it over to police.
Warren detective Michael Altiere and former detective Thomas Wire both testified they sought search warrants for the cellphone and its contents because of its proximity to the murder scene and it belonged to the suspect.
A court brief filed by defense attorney David Rouzzo states his client was identified in a police photo lineup that was “unnecessarily suggestive.” Rouzzo also wrote that all evidence used by the prosecution was taken as a result of a “warrantless seizure and search of the defendant’s cellular phone” and should be thrown out.
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