Defendant to testify in murder trial
HUNTINGTON — A Cabell County jury will start deliberating Friday on whether the 2016 shooting death of 57-year-old Lawrence “Black Pops” Sykes at Marcum Terrace equated to murder, but not before the alleged shooter testifies on his own behalf.
Brandon Lamar “Louie” McCauley, 26, of Detroit, was charged with murder in the 2016 shooting death of Sykes. He allegedly fled the area after the shooting and was caught about a year later in Detroit, Michigan.
According to assistant prosecutors Kellie Neal and Ryan Hamady, Sykes was killed in a revenge killing after two unknown men robbed two other men — Dewey Michael “Old Man Mike” Woodrum and “Bigs” — of drugs and cash in a Marcum Terrace apartment. Prosecutors deny Sykes’ involvement in that.
Defense attorney Courtenay Craig argued if McCauley had committed the shooting, it would have been made in self-defense after he allegedly had found himself being attacked in an argument over the robbery, which he alleges to have known nothing about at the time.
Thursday’s testimony consisted of statements from eyewitnesses and forensic analysts, who testified to what occurred during the shooting, with the most condemning evidence showing that Sykes had been shot at least twice while he was kneeling or completely on the ground.
Forensic DNA analyst Bailey Hill testified that while she was able to identify DNA found around the crime scene to match Sykes’ DNA, other DNA samples were too poor of quality to identify anyone else.
Huntington Police forensic investigator Sgt. Steve Compton testified that by the time the forensic unit arrived at the scene, Sykes already had been taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Investigators found blood pooling from the inside of the front entrance to the apartment onto the stoop outside.
Compton said some of the blood at the front door belonged to a female, but he believes based on blood splatter analysis it was from a prior event not related to the shooting.
A television near the door had been knocked off a TV stand and CDs were scattered around the stand, indicating the scuffle had occurred at the front of the apartment. Blood was also found on a front window curtain and a light switch at the front of the home.
Compton said the blood splatter indicated that Sykes was continuously fired upon even as he was falling to the floor.
The victim and shooter would have been face-to-face when the shooting occurred, Compton testified, but then Sykes turned to his right and fell to the ground, or was crouched on the ground, where he received two more gunshots, one of which was most likely to the head.
Overall, Sykes was hit five times — in the thigh, abdomen, upper chest, back of the neck and behind his ear.
Blake Reta, a forensic firearm specialist, testified that investigators recovered five of the six bullets that were fired from the same weapon, which prosecutors said had been held by the defendant. That weapon was never recovered.
Sykes did have his own firearm in his pocket, which held two bullets — one of them bird-shot ammunition — but according to Compton, the handle of the firearm was duct taped, which would make it more difficult for the firearm to fire.
Craig said McCauley would not have known any of this information in the heat of the moment.
Compton said he believes the missing bullet ricocheted off the door and went somewhere outside, but he said he could not be sure.
“Just because we have five wounds in the victim and one defect at the scene doesn’t mean that the defect in the door couldn’t have been one of those five shots,” he said.
Woodrum testified Thursday that he had been with “Bigs” the night of the robbery, but left after “Bigs” accused him of setting him up. When he left, “Bigs” was attempting to pick up some money that had been dropped by the robbers.
Woodrum testified Thursday he had spent the day using illegal opioids with a group of people in the apartment where the shooting occurred before “Bigs” and the defendant came inside and began fighting with him and the victim. Hamady pointed to a full bag of heroin found in the victim’s pocket after his death as evidence he was not high at the time the attack occurred.
Craig said Woodrum’s testimony differed from statements he gave to private investigators in which he made no mention of the two having firearms. Craig also said Woodrum’s testimony Thursday was conflicting because he said the two came into the apartment with guns pulled out, but later said he saw the defendant pull out a firearm.
Woodrum, who was at one point incarcerated at Western Regional Jail with McCauley, said McCauley had discussed the case with him, saying he had never hit him with a pistol and the story he had given to police was a lie.
When asked by Craig if he was alleging witness tampering in the case, Woodrum said he was not.
After the prosecution rested its case, Craig asked for the charges against his client to be dropped due to lack of evidence, but Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson denied the request.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, with the defense presenting two witnesses, HPD detective Chris Sperry and McCauley.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/ CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.