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‘Why’d you shoot him?’

October 4, 2018

Prosecutors continued their parade of witnesses Wednesday in the murder trial of two men charged with killing a Berry College student in the off-campus apartment where the victim sold drugs.

Troy Jamal Cokley and Ricket Damon Carter, who were 19 at the time, are charged with robbing Joseph P. McDaniel, 20, of a large amount of marijuana and shooting him to death.

The incident took place Oct. 28, 2017, in the Summerstone Apartments unit where McDaniel lived. While the fight and the shooting are not in dispute, the men’s attorneys are calling it self-defense.

Among the witnesses called by Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson Wednesday was a woman who was working alone at the nearby Circle K on U.S. 27 in Armuchee.

The woman testified she was outside, sweeping and smoking, around 2 a.m. when two men fitting the descriptions of Carter and Cokley pulled in, parked and sat for a few minutes.

The windows were cracked and she started paying attention when she heard them talking excitedly.

“Then I heard the passenger ask the driver, ‘Why’d you shoot him? You didn’t have to shoot him.’ And I go, ‘Oh crap,’” the woman told the jury in Floyd County Superior Court Judge Jack Niedrach’s courtroom.

Defense attorney West Evans questioned her closely on the timeline, as did attorney Stacy Jackson of Columbus, who is representing Carter. Rome attorney Chris Twyman is heading the team.

Johnson also brought in analysts from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab, where the body and evidence was processed, and several of the Floyd County Police Department investigators who tracked down Carter and Cokley in the Columbus home of one of Carter’s relatives.

Police Lt. Dan Pendley said there are 11 investigators in the department and, with an early morning homicide call, “it’s all hands on deck.”

He testified to his activities processing the scene, which still included McDaniel’s body when he arrived shortly after 3 a.m. He found text messages from Carter to McDaniel — the three men knew each other in high school in Columbus — and Johnson asked him what they meant.

“It was the set up of a deal for the purchase of marijuana,” Pendley said.

He sent the information to other detectives, who found Carter’s carrier and got a GPS location for the phone — which was moving. Another detective learned of Carter’s relatives and a contingent of Floyd officers went to the Columbus Police Department, which arrested the two and turned them over for return to Rome.

Twyman spent much of his time zeroing in on the weapons involved, and what the position of the bullet, shell casing and gunshot residue could reveal about the incident.

There were two guns found in the apartment, a Glock on the stairs and a Kimber in a gun safe in a closet. Both belong to McDaniel’s roommate, Andrew David Horton, 22, a fellow Berry student, who was present for at least part of the incident.

Neither gun was tied to McDaniel’s fatal wound. Pendley said no other gun or “giant bag of marijuana” was ever found. The trial continues today at 11 a.m.

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