McKinley murder heads to Grand Jury
McKinley murder case bound over to Grand Jury
By Logan Watson
After months of postponements, murder suspects Uel Pearson and Lillo Harrell received their preliminary hearing last Friday afternoon for the murder of Rontavious “Maurice” McKinley. McKinley was shot and killed on October 11, 2016, while resting with his girlfriend in her home at 4024 Patton Street in Milan.
Judge Collins Bonds heard two hours of testimony regarding the case, including statements from Sharonda Simmons, one of the victims in the attack, and Lawrence Douglas, a defendant in the case.
Lieutenant Greg Bookout, the first officer to arrive at the scene of the crime, was the first of the witness called to testify.
Lt. Bookout’s body camera footage, which was entered into evidence, displayed a harrowing scene upon his arrival. The neighborhood was silent when Lt. Bookout arrived at the home, but the women inside the residence were terrified. A number of women let Lt. Bookout inside, where he was led to the scene of the crime. Sharonda Simmons lay wounded on the bed, crying. “They came in and shot. I don’t know,” Simmons wailed. “Help him first. Is he going to be ok?”
Feet away from Simmons, slumped between the bed and the wall, was McKinley, who Lt. Bookout described as “breathing, but unresponsive.” The distance between the gallery and the screen, thankfully, made it hard to notice the amount of blood at the scene, but the evidence was still difficult to watch . Lt. Bookout stated that spent 9mm shell casings were found “all over the front of the bedroom”.
Simmons took the stand and laid out the timeline of the night’s events. She stated that McKinley arrived at the residence between 11:00 and 11:30, while she was sleeping. Simmons cooked him a meal, which they then took back to her bedroom and ate. After the pair laid down to sleep, the violence erupted.
Simmons stated that an intruder kicked in the door around 12:00 or 12:30, turned on the lights and began firing. Simmons was hit 11 times in the leg. She was transported to a Memphis hospital, where she spent four days and received two operations to repair her tibia. Simmons stated that the shooter’s face was covered and she was unable to make a positive identification to investigators.
Simmons did, however, state that Pearson had been in the home before the shooting and had words with McKinley. Pearson, who was in a relationship with her roommate Iyanna Boyce, had been in Boyce’s bedroom when McKinley arrived, but left shortly afterward. Neither Pearson nor Harrell had a noticeable reaction to Simmons entering the court room.
Lawrence Douglas was also called on to testify about his involvement in the night’s events. As he took the stand, Pearson spoke quietly to his attorney. Harrell’s head seemingly followed Douglas from the door to the witness stand.
Douglas, a self-professed member of the Gangster Disciples, stated that he had received texts from Pearson that night. One stating “That n**** here” and another asking where Douglas was at the time. Douglas stated that Pearson showed up at his home “tipsy”, holding a gun and a liquor bottle. Pearson asked Douglas to drop him off somewhere, but according to his testimony, he did not know where or why. Douglas agreed and drove Pearson to an apartment complex on West Cherry Street at what he described as a “mini-birthday party”. According to Douglas’ testimony, Pearson got out of the car and told him not to leave. Harrell was already at the apartment complex and in possession of a weapon.
Douglas told prosecuting attorney Hillary Parham that he then witnessed Pearson and Harrell with pantyhose on their heads, heading towards Patton Street through some nearby bushes. Pearson later left the apartment complex, where he encountered Pearson and Harrell walking down the Ennis Street. Douglas stated that after the two men got into his car, he drove them to Harrell’s home, where they had an altercation about them leaving their guns in his car. Douglas told the court that the men left the guns in a bag, which he then took inside his home. Harrell came back the next day and picked up the guns, saying “I got him too many times.” Pearson came to Douglas’ home later, asking him to dispose of some clothing, which Douglas identified as the items he was wearing the night of the shooting.
Douglas told the attorneys for the defense that he lied to police initially because he was scared and did not know he was going to commit a crime that night. He stated that he left the apartment complex to “get out of that situation” and was testifying because it was “the right thing to do.” He told the court that had no plans to pick them up afterwards, nor did he hear any gunshots.
Attorneys Daniel Taylor and Michael Casey, who represented Harrell and Pearson respectively, argued that the case was built solely on the testimony of a man charged with murder and that there was no evidence directly linking their clients to the murder. The defense asked for a reduced bond, but Judge Bonds upheld that the case would be bound over to the Grand Jury and called for bond amounts to remain unchanged.