Mayes and Wadlington convicted of wanton murder, sentenced to 20 years
by Alan Reed
Jul 26, 2006 | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Three families have lost their sons,” is the way Trigg County Circuit Judge Bill Cunningham concluded a three-day murder trial that resulted in a guilty verdict for George “Kelly” Mayes, 25, and Devron Wadlington, 21.

The two were found guilty after the jury heard two and a half days of testimony over the death of LaWarren O’Keith Sims, 23, in a shooting that took place on May 22, 2005 at a night spot near Cerulean.

Final trial

It was the first murder trial held in Trigg County since 1981 and was conducted under the watchful eye of armed officers from the Cadiz Police Department, Trigg County Sheriff’s Department and several representatives of the Kentucky State Police.

With the current courthouse scheduled for destruction in late October, it may be the last major court proceedings held in the 90-year-old facility.

The trial began on July 18, in the Trigg County Courthouse. Several perspective jurors were familiar with the case, the defendants, or the victim. All pledged that their prior knowledge would not color their deliberations.

Mayes defense attorney, Willie Peale of Frankfort was asked if he felt that the perspective jury, in which four African Americans had been interviewed would allow the court to seat a jury of his client’s and Wadlington’s peers. “We’re hoping race is not a factor and the jury does what is supposed to do- consider the causes and the evidence. We trust that any jury will stay fair and open-minded and listen to everything. We are not contesting this trial by race.”

The final jury, including two alternates, included six white women, five white men and two men and one woman of African-American descent.

Through opening remarks and witnesses, the prosecution led by Commonwealth Attorney G.L. Ovey built a case against the two defendants.

The first witness was Sondra Sims, the victim’s mother. She told the jury that the last time she saw her son alive was in the yard, talking to her granddaughter. The loss of her son was painful for her a year later, as the line of questioning brought her to tears. She again cried hearing about her son’s last moments from friends who tried to save his life.

The Commonwealth’s third witness, Anthony Wilson was at Henry’s Place attending the party. Wilson, 19, lives in Princeton and was an acquaintance of the victim. He believed over 75 people attended the gathering. Wilson admitted he had an altercation with Mayes a week prior to the shooting, which continued at the party, when Ovey asked if dancing at the club grew rough.

“He (Mayes) pushed me, and I pushed back. Some beer cans were thrown our way, but we were not hit with any,” said Wilson. “The lights came on and we went outside. I asked if he had a problem. Mayes said ‘You don’t know me, I’m the King of Cadiz!’ He pulled up his shirt and I saw he had a gun and ran,” testified Wilson.

Another witness, and cousin to Sims was Carl Copeland. His said in his testimony that Wadlington was armed as well, and that he observed Mayes firing in the air. He and Wilson both fled from the shots, trying to seek help in a nearby home. With no answer to their knocking, they turned and found Sims fatally wounded in a gravel road.

Shots Fired

Wilson said that he did not see shots fired at him or the victim, but heard shots fired as he retreated from the two armed men. At first, he did not believe Sims had been hit by gunfire, as he was wearing a red Tennessee Titans jersey.

“We ran past LaWarren who said that he was shot. I told him ‘No you’re not, keep running. LaWarren fell to the street on his knees,” said Wilson

Copeland added that both he and Wilson attempted to carry Sims to safety, but by then, he was too weak to move.

Wilson described his position on a panoramic photo taken by the prosecutor. His testimony was consistent with the testimony of Ashley and Jeanine Riley, who took the stand the next morning.

Another witness, and cousin to Sims was Carl Copeland. His said in his testimony that Wadlington was armed as well, and that he observed Mayes firing in the air. He and Wilson both fled from the shots, trying to seek help in a nearby home. With no answer to their knocking, they turned and found Sims fatally wounded in a gravel road.

Ashley Riley said that she observed Wadlington and Mayes firing on “the Princeton crowd,” rather than in the air, as had other witnesses. She said that Mayes gun had a much louder report than Wadlington’s, and she heard Mayes discharge his weapon as they calmly left the scene in a blue Cadillac. She described Wadlington’s weapon’s sound as more of a pop.

The prosecution noted that the shell casings collected from the path of the retreat and one found in the Cadillac were .45 caliber. They maintained Wadlington used a 9mm Parabellum, based on a shell casing collected at the last observed position of Mayes and himself. An additional .45 caliber brass shell casing was collected at that location.

Preliminary state police documents reported a .22 caliber shell casing nearby, and it was recorded on an evidence sketch of the scene. This sketch was provided to the defense during discovery. The final sketch used by the prosecution omitted reference to the shell casing.

Former KSP detective Jason Manar testified one day after his graduation from the FBI academy on the final day of the trial. He said that what had been recorded on the sketch as a shell casing was no more than a metallic pen cap.

.22 caliber slugs had been found in a nearby trailer lodged in the door and in cargo contained within.

The slug from the single fatal gunshot was never collected, according to the prosecution.

Two Wounds

Dr. Deirdre Schluckebier is the regional medical examiner for Western Kentucky. In her testimony, she stated she performed a post mortem examination of Sims on May 23. She described the victim as having “two gunshot wounds, and a scrape on the forehead.” She said that the “two gunshot wounds” were actually part of the same wound, and an entry and an exit wound. As there was no soot in, or gunpowder stippling around the wound area, she deemed the gunshot to have been fired from indeterminate range.

From her examination, she believed the bullet perforated the right lung, and cut the jugular vein, causing the victim to bleed to death.

Initially Schluckebier believed that the victim was shot from behind, but a week prior to the trial, reversed her report to state that Sims was shot from the front.

Co-council for Wadlington, Paul Mullins, asked Schluckebier about the inconsistency and caliber of shot causing the fatal wound.

“I made a mistake. The shot appeared to pass straight through. You cannot tell the caliber of a bullet from the size of a wound,” Schluckebier said. She attributed the erroneous report to a heavy workload of 4 cases during the inquest.

Pistol Found

A .45 caliber Hi Point pistol was introduced by the prosecution. It was said to have belonged to Mayes, and was surrendered to investigators by his uncle and prosecution witness Billy Alexander.

FBI tool marks and firearms expert Eric Smith testified that the shell casings found at the scene and in the vehicle conclusively had been fired by that weapon. During direct examination, Smith said that a .45 cartridge was found in the weapon by police, with a hollow-point bullet. Smith stated that hollow-points typically expand upon impact, and could shatter upon contact with bone. Thick clothing he thought could change the nature of a wound to one more consistent with a full metal jacket round. That type of round was more likely to cause the victim’s in-and-out wound.

During cross-examination, Peale pressed Smith about the nature of the wound. Smith said that thick close weren’t always needed, that thin could change ballistic characteristics, or even no clothing could cause a variation.

Wadlington’s weapon was never located, nor was it known the type of ammunition he used.

One key witness to the prosecution’s case was Roddell Acree. Acree drove the Cadillac from the Cerulean scene to Cadiz, where he testified that Mayes pressed the car’s accelerator to escape from Cadiz police officer Roger Knight. Acree also stated that Mayes gave him an empty cardboard Budweiser Beer box, containing items from the car, and a live .45 caliber round. After numerous interviews, Acree lead police to the concealed box.

For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.
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