WILKES-BARRE — Accused murderer Keith Williams took the stand Thursday afternoon and asserted the man he killed made a move toward him before he pulled the trigger.
“He was sitting down and he got up, took like two steps toward me,” said Williams, 42, of Fairmount Twp. “I believe he said, ‘Are you ready to go now?’ I shot him.”
Williams is on trial on charges alleging he murdered 40-year-old Brock Earnest, of Montandon, following a fight inside Williams’ home at 1034 Old Tioga Turnpike, on Jan. 11, 2017.
After prosecutors rested their case Thursday, the defense began its presentation with Williams’ testimony — some of which directly contradicted that of the prosecution’s star witness, Williams’ ex-girlfriend Deidre Depiero.
By all accounts, Depiero met Earnest in the fall of 2016 while they were at a psychiatric facility in Bloomsburg. They struck up a friendship, but didn’t stay in close contact.
But then on the day of the shooting, Earnest called her up repeatedly, claiming to be dying of mouth cancer with a month left to live. Depiero called out of work as a nursing assistant and agreed to pick him up.
Williams said he thought it was a bad idea to bring a virtual stranger back to the trailer they shared.
“I didn’t want him to come over,” Williams said. “She didn’t know the guy. I didn’t want him to come over at all.”
Nevertheless, Williams agreed to go along and pick Earnest up, and the trio stopped for a 30-pack of beer on the way home. Williams described an intimidating experience meeting Earnest, who had hand and facial tattoos and explained he had spent 17 years in prison because he “took care of a couple N-words.”
“He said he likes getting drunk and beating people up at bars ... and he wanted to have one last round before he dies,” Williams said.
Back at the trailer, the men shot a shotgun for fun outside before the trouble began. While Depiero claimed the men started play fighting before Earnest took it too far, Williams described Earnest pushing him from behind and knocking him into the kitchen counter.
Then Earnest took him to the ground, he said.
“He just got on top of me and I was just like in a fetal position trying to stop him from hitting me,” Williams said.
Williams, who suffers from neuropathy and diabetes, described himself as being far out-matched by the “superior” strength Earnest had. Eventually Depiero stepped in and broke it up, with Earnest going to the living room couch and Williams running to the bedroom, he said.
“I grabbed the gun, put a shell in it. I came out of the room,” Williams said.
On Wednesday, Depiero testified that Earnest was still sitting on the couch when Williams came out and blasted him in the chest without either man saying a word.
But on Thursday, Williams said the shooting after Earnest “made a move to come at me” and issued the verbal challenge.
Under intense cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Michelle Hardik, Williams stuck by his account, maintaining he had no choice but to shot the rival coming at him from about five feet away.
“There was no word to be said. If I said a word, he would have got me,” Williams said. “He was so close to me it would have been done. He’d be sitting here in my place.”
The defense rested its case at the conclusion of Williams’ testimony. Jurors will hear closing arguments Friday morning.