YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Phillip Whitman said taking away the gun from the man accused of killing the mother of his child was “like taking candy from a baby.”
But his recollections on what happened before and during the shooting death of Jolanda Murry, 27, were not so easy to follow.
Whitman testified Wednesday in municipal court in the preliminary hearing for Gregory Richardson, 36, who is accused of shooting Murry in the head about 5 a.m. Dec. 22 while they were in a car on Halleck Street on the North Side.
Murry died four days later from her wounds in St. Elizabeth Health Center.
Richardson was arrested Dec. 23 for attempted burglary and aggravated robbery, but he had four previous preliminary hearings in those cases postponed. He was charged with the murder Jan. 5, but three of those hearings were postponed. He was to have a hearing in all three cases Friday, but it was postponed after his previous attorney filed a motion to withdraw just after the first witness took the witness stand.
The attorney was afraid of a potential conflict of interest.
A new attorney, Lou DeFabio, was appointed to the case, and the murder and aggravated robbery charges were bound over after a 90-minute hearing by Judge Carla Baldwin. Judge Baldwin is expected to issue a ruling by the end of the week as to whether or not the attempted burglary charge will be bound over.
Whitman testified he, Richardson and a woman were in the back seat of a car driven by another man and Murry was in the front when Richardson erupted and shot her in the back of the head.
Whitman grabbed the gun from Richardson and tried to shoot him but it jammed, he testified. He then tried to move the car, but it was stuck on a pole. He had to move the car because the driver and the other woman inside fled.
Whitman said he had never met Richardson before, but under cross examination by DeFabio, he said he was at Richardson’s home earlier in the evening with Murry and the driver of the car and they did drugs.
They then got more drugs at a home on the South Side and later on while at an East Side gas station decided to go to a home on Halleck Street to get more drugs, which is when Murry was shot.
Whitman made no attempts to disguise his anger, calling Richardson a “coward” and he referred to Murry as “an angel” and “a queen” before Judge Baldwin told him to stick to his testimony and stop commenting.
The driver of the car, Braylon Howell, said he heard the shot but did not see who fired the gun. He said he was afraid and he jumped out of the car while it was still moving and ran behind a garage before he came back and helped Whitman, who he described as his uncle, get the car free. They then drove Murry to the hospital, he said.
Howell also said under cross examination that Richardson and Whitman argued at Richardson’s home earlier in the evening and that while everyone else was smoking crack cocaine, he only took ecstasy pills.
Howell said he did not hear anyone arguing in the car before the shot was fired.
After Murry was shot, Richardson ran and police said he tried to get into a home on nearby Granada Avenue, which led to the attempted burglary charge. The homeowner there said he was awakened shortly after 5 a.m. by someone pounding on his front door screaming for help.
The homeowner and his wife went to answer the door and found a man, later identified as Richardson, asking to be let inside. The witness told Richardson he would call 911, but he did not want to let him inside.
That did not calm Richardson down, the witness testified, as he kept pounding and broke a pane of glass in the door. He tried to reach through with his phone and license as well, the witness testified.
The witness said he was not scared but nervous about what might happen if Richardson managed to get through the door.
“I had my eyes on something I could use in case he got inside,” the witness testified.
Police showed up shortly after, and Richardson was taken into custody. The homeowner said he was able to later identify Richardson because of the tattoos he has covering his face and forehead.
The manager of a Glenwood Avenue Family Dollar that Richardson is accused of robbing Dec. 19 also testified that she was able to identify him by his tattoos, even though he was wearing a mask when he came in with a gun and fired a round into the ceiling before demanding money.
“Nobody has tattoos like him,” the witness testified. The witness also said she knows Richardson through family members.
DeFabio told Judge Baldwin he tried to talk Richardson out of having a preliminary hearing because of various tactical reasons should the case be indicted, but Richardson was adamant about having it. At one point, the two talked and Richardson could be heard saying, “I understand, but this is my life right here.”
On Dec. 17, Richardson was sentenced to four years probation in common pleas court after he pleaded guilty to charges of failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer and vehicular assault, both third-degree felonies, and receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony.
The sentence was recommended by prosecutors and defense attorneys in the case before it was upheld by Judge Maureen Sweeney at the sentencing hearing.
Those charges stemmed from an April 21 chase that resulted in a crash at Market Street and St. Louis Avenue. Reports said Richardson was spotted in a stolen car at a Market Street gas station and when they tried to pull him over, he instead drove off until he hit an SUV, which became wedged underneath a tractor-trailer.