People inside home testify in triple killing

February 28, 2019

Danasha Hart went to bed about 9:30 p.m. in her home in the 1200 block of Lillie Street the night before Preonda M. Jones, 37, and Brianna R. Gould, 24, were killed.

She said in court Wednesday she awoke the next morning inside her bedroom in the basement to the sound of gunshots.

Upstairs, Jones was dead and Gould : who was pregnant with a boy : was clinging to life in a bathtub.

Gould and the fetus were pronounced dead at a hospital, and Deyante Stephens, 27, is charged with three counts of murder in their deaths.

In testimony on the second day of Stephens’ trial in Allen Superior Court, another woman in the home : Tomeka Bennett : said she awakened Jan. 20, 2018, to a loud bang or bangs. The sounds she heard didn’t sound like gunshots, she said.

She told police in an earlier interview she heard Stephens’ voice inside the home before the women were killed.

Police were called to the house about 6:40 a.m., and Stephens was found trying to break into an apartment two hours later on Serenity Drive. He begged officers to shoot him, asked them for a hug, threatened to kill himself and called them “dead men,” according to court documents.

A man who was at the apartment said the man who tried to break in was hard to understand : a comment consistent with a statement Tuesday from defense attorney Anthony Churchward that Stephens was “talking nonsense” when he was arrested.

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Alison Yeager said Stephens shot the women because he thought they were police officers.

On Wednesday, jurors listened to a recording of a phone call Stephens made from the Allen County Jail. In it, he uses a slang term for Spice : a synthetic drug whose effects range from “zombie-like behavior to extremely violent behavior,” according to Darrick Engelman, a retired Fort Wayne police detective who worked on the case.

On the call, Stephens also refers to police using a slang term.

Jurors also listened to four calls made to 911 the morning of the slayings. In each, dispatchers plead for the caller to give them an address to send help. The pleas are met with mumbles and moans. It’s not clear who placed the calls.

Stephens faces up to 195 years in prison if he is convicted of the murder charges, and prosecutors have filed an enhancement for using a gun to commit the crime that could add another 20 years to the sentence.

The case is expected to go to jurors to decide today.