YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Elizabeth Green said she told her daughter, Valarcia Blair, not to go with her boyfriend, Edward Morris, just before the two and their 3-month-old child were shot in November of 2018.
Green also said that Blair, 19, also snuck out with the baby, 3-month-old Tariq Morris, who had been sleeping, when Blair got in the car with Edward Morris, 21. All three would be killed in a shooting Nov. 7, 2018, at Gibson and Pasadena avenues.
Green was the first prosecution witness in the trial of the two men in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court accused of their deaths, Taquashon Ray and Shainquon Sharpe, both 25. They each face several charges including four counts of aggravated murder.
Judge Maureen Sweeney is hearing the case. A jury was selected Tuesday and opening statements and testimony began Wednesday after jurors viewed the crime scene.
Security was tight around Judge Sweeney’s courtroom. Sheriff’s deputies watched the hallways and scanned all spectators before they entered the courtroom.
Green told Assistant Prosecutor Rob Andrews that she saw her daughter a couple of hours before she died and she knew she was going somewhere with Morris. She testified she did not want her daughter to go with Morris and told her so.
Green said she did not approve of Morris and said she did not want her daughter involved with him. She testified Morris was “into a lot of stuff,” but she was not specific.
“I was trying to put a stop to them from seeing each other because of the things they were doing,” Green testified. “I didn’t approve of it.”
Tariq was sleeping just before her daughter left and Green said she would have watched the child because she was watching Blair’s other children.
“Tariq was asleep but she snuck him out,” Green testified. “I told her he was asleep. He could’ve stayed.”
All three victims were shot in Edward Morris’ car. Morris was dead in the driver’s seat with a .45-caliber pistol in his lap. Police said he managed to fire a single round at his attackers before he was killed.
Blair was in the passenger seat of the car and gasping for air, Assistant Prosecutor Aaron Meikle said in his opening statement, and when a police officer came she could not speak but inclined her head to the back seat, where Tariq was in a car seat. Officers did not wait for an ambulance for Tariq but took him directly to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where he died in surgery. Blair also died at the hospital.
In his opening statement, Meikle told jurors police have Facebook messages and call logs from the cell phones of both defendants that show they planned and executed the killing.
In front of the car of the victims was another car which Meikle said was the getaway car and was abandoned by the pair because it would not start. The owner of the car is expected to testify later and say one of the two borrowed it to go to the store.
Police found DNA on one of the shell casings recovered from the scene that matched Sharpe, Meikle said. Ray also admitted to police that he was there when the shooting happened.
In a brief opening statement, one of Sharpe’s two attorneys, Charles Strader, told jurors the facts of the case are “chilling,” but they must not allow emotion to factor into the deliberations.
Strader said there are no witnesses who ever saw Sharpe in the area with a gun, and he also said police do not have a murder weapon.
In a more lengthy opening statement, Andrew Zellers, one of Ray’s two lawyers, also told jurors there are no eyewitnesses who saw his client with a gun but he admitted Ray was at the shooting scene.
“He was there, but that doesn’t mean he did it,” Zellers said. “No one can put a gun in Mr. Ray’s hand at the time it happened.”
Zellers also said that several people had access to Ray’s Facebook account.
“Just because something appeared on his Facebook profile or a message appeared on his Facebook account, that doesn’t mean he sent it,” Zellers said.
Zellers also said that Morris had several enemies and police had several leads but for some reason, they settled on his client as a suspect. Meikle did not allude to a motive in his statement.
After Green testified, jurors heard recordings of the gunshot sensors in the area that recorded the shots. Two different weapons can be heard, including one on rapid-fire. Police said they recovered casings from a handgun and an assault rifle at the crime scene.
Jurors also listened to recordings of officers who were dispatched to the crime scene and of the officers who asked to take Tariq to the hospital, telling calltakers to call the emergency room so they could be prepared for their arrival.
City police Patrolman Joe Wess took the witness stand after Green. Wess, now a police dog handler, was a regular patrol officer that evening working a beat car in that part of town. He testified that he was eating lunch in a parking lot on Shady Run Road when his meal was interrupted after he heard several gunshots.
When Wess arrived, he found Morris near death in the driver’s seat of his car and saw a handgun on his lap. He took the gun then looked in the car in front of Morris’ car to make sure no one was in that car.
Wess then testified that he next went over to check on Blair. She could not speak, but she kept inclining her head to the back of the car. Wess followed her eyes and found Tariq, wrapped in blankets in the car seat.
“She couldn’t talk, but she continued to look into the back seat like she was trying to notify me something was there,” Wess testified.
Wess took the seat out of the car, moved the blankets around and found out that Tariq had a gunshot wound. By then, other officers had arrived and he gave the car seat to one of them, who then took Tariq to the hospital because an ambulance was four minutes away and they did not think the child could wait that long.