YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The woman who survived a shooting that killed her boyfriend in late 2018 testified Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court that she was able to identify the man who shot her because she had seen him before.
Defense attorneys for Lavontae Knight, 27, of Ferndale Avenue, however, told jurors during opening statements she only had fleeting looks at her clients weeks before her boyfriend Trevice Harris, 37, was shot and killed Dec. 30, 2018.
They also tried to discredit her identification of Knight during cross examination.
Jurors before Judge John M. Durkin also heard opening statements today in the trial of Knight, who is accused of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Besides the death of Knight, his girlfriend was also wounded in the same shooting.
The case began Monday with jury selection. Harris’ girlfriend was the first witness to testify.
Harris’ girlfriend said she does not live in Ohio, but had been seeing Harris on and off for seven years and she was in town at the end of 2018 to spend time with him. The night of the shooting, she testified she met Harris at a house on Ferndale Avenue where he was meeting a man she knew as “Slim,” whom prosecutors said is Knight.
When she got inside the home Knight was there, as well as a man and a woman she did not know. The men held guns and the woman patted her down, taking her coat and cell phone. She testified Harris was also being held at gunpoint, although they eventually got their phones back.
Knight told the two they were going for a ride, which the witness said made her nervous.
“I was scared, very scared,” she testified. “I was afraid of being shot.”
The man drove her Mercedes while she was in the passenger seat and Knight and Harris were in the back seat, the witness testified. At East Earle Avenue and Erie Street, the car stopped and both men got outside. Then she heard shots, the witness testified.
She knew Harris was hit and it was not good, she testified.
“I knew he wasn’t OK,” she said.
The witness began driving towards Market Street and called 911. In the tape played for jurors, the witness is hysterical but when asked who shot her she answered, “Slim.”
She drove to the Shell Station because it was well lit and there was a lot of people there and she thought she could get some help there. She had one more glance at Harris before she arrived, she testified.
She asked him if he was “ok” and Harris said, “Yeah,” the witness testified. That was the last word Harris ever spoke.
At the Shell Station, the witness again told police it was “Slim” who shot her and Harris and she was able to pick him out of a photo lineup the next day. She testified she was worried about Harris as the police tended to her and she was also in a great deal of pain from bullet wounds to the arm, back and shoulder.
The witness testified she knew who Slim was because she had seen him at funeral and burial services for Knight’s half brother, Edward Morris, 21, who was killed in a Nov. 7, 2018, triple shooting at Pasadena Avenue and Gibson Street, which also took the life of Valarcia Blair, 19 and the child the two had, 3-month-old Tariq Morris.
Two men were convicted of their deaths earlier this year and sentenced to life in prison.
The witness also testified she also saw Knight two more times before the night she and Harris were shot.
Under cross examination from defense attorney David Betras, the witness admitted to twice emailing to police pictures of a person she thought was the unidentified man who was driving the car. She also said she did not remember some of the statements she made to police in January 2019 that Betras asked her about.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Brian Kopp told jurors that neither Knight’s fingerprints or DNA was found in the car the witness said Harris was in when he was shot. Police did find the DNA of another man on a back door handle of that car, who was able to be identified because his DNA profile was on file.
Kopp also said that the witness only had brief, fleeting looks at best at Knight when she saw him before the shooting.
The witness also said under cross examination from Betras that she did not remember police telling her another man’s DNA was found in her car.