Trial begins in 2016 shooting death case
HUNTINGTON — A Cabell County murder trial started Wednesday against a man who was on the run for more than a year after he was accused in the 2016 fatal shooting of 57-year-old Lawrence “Black Pops” Sykes in Huntington.
Brandon Lamar “Louie” McCauley, 26, of Detroit, was charged last year with shooting Sykes in the 1300 block of Marcum Terrace. Sykes had been shot multiple times Feb. 4, 2016, and died soon after at St. Mary’s Medical Center. McCauley is accused of fleeing Huntington directly after the shooting and was arrested a year later in Detroit after being profiled among “Detroit’s Most Wanted” on WXYZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Detroit.
For the first time, assistant prosecutors Kellie Neal and Ryan Hamady revealed a motive in the attack, alleging the slaying was made out of revenge for drugs and money stolen by two masked individuals from two men a couple days before Sykes’ death. Defense attorney Courtenay Craig said the shooting occurred in self-defense after his client got caught up in a fight surrounding the robbery, about which he had known nothing.
According to Neal, a day or two before the deadly shooting, Dewey Michael “Old Man Mike” Woodrum and “Bigs” were inside their Marcum Terrace apartment when two masked men broke in and robbed them of drugs and money. Woodrum told police “Bigs” had immediately become skeptical of him, believing Woodrum had set him up in the robbery because the robbers seemed to have inside knowledge of where the stolen items were located.
Rumors started to swirl at the apartment complex, Neal said, stating Woodrum and Sykes, who did not live at the complex, were involved in the robbery. Because of this, the two men left to stay at a Huntington hotel with a woman before returning Feb. 4.
Craig said his client had been running errands Feb. 4 and the day before and had been staying at a hotel as he was preparing to move into a home, which he was later unable to move into after a roommate backed out. He had no idea a robbery had taken place. On Feb. 4 “Bigs” asked him for a ride to pay a phone bill. When McCauley arrived to pick him up, “Bigs” told him he first needed to get money.
“Bigs” a nd McCau ley entered an apartment in the 1300 block of Marcum Terrace, where Woodrum and Sykes were visiting and a confrontation broke out. In Neal’s version, “Bigs” and McCauley were attacking Woodrum and when Sykes went to pull the group apart, McCauley shot him five times — in the thigh, abdomen, upper chest, back of the neck and behind his ear.
Huntington Police Sgt. Shawn Bowles testified Wednesday that he was near the area when Cabell County 911 dispatchers alerted police to the shooting. He was the first responder who arrived to the scene first and immediately began performing first aid on Sykes before EMS arrived.
Bowles said as he was working on Sykes, his breathing was labored before he stopped breathing altogether. Paramedics took over after arriving on scene and were also unsuccessful in saving his life.
While he was attempting to revive Sykes, Bowles was asking spectators questions about what occurred and learned the suspects had fled the scene.
Craig said McCauley was acting in self-defense after Sykes allegedly pushed him to the ground twice before reaching for a gun that was in his pocket. Sykes is a convicted felon and not allowed to possess a firearm, he added. Craig said his client, who is 5-foot-5, could not have fought against a 6-foot-1 Sykes.
“In this state you don’t have a duty to retreat if you think your life is in danger,” he said. “He had been thrown to the ground twice, the door slammed open, and the guy had gone for a gun that was later found on his person. My client had no involvement in this drug conspiracy and had no reason to want to be involved or hurt anybody.”
Craig admitted McCauley and “Bigs” knew each, but said prosecutors had no evidence the defendant was in the drug trade with “Bigs” that would make the shooting a “revenge killing.” Although he was at one point named “Detroit’s Most Wanted” in connection with three shootings, McCauley has not been convicted of a felony in his adult life.
Craig also questioned where Sykes got money to spend on a hotel if he had not been involved in the robbery.
Neal was adamant that it was not a self-defense shooting. Witnesses said Sykes had not threatened to use the firearm or even pulled it out before being shot, she said.
“It was over the robbery they thought (the men) were involved in,” she said. “They came there and shot Lawrence Sykes five times. There was no justification for this. There was nothing he did for this to happen to him, and we expect that is what you are going to find in this case.”
The trial is expected to continue at 9 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, in Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson’s courtroom at the Cabell County Courthouse.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.