Defense at Rodger Scales trial: Witness to homicide changed account 5 times

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 30, 2013 

Another day, another story.

On Tuesday jurors in Rodger Scales' weeklong murder trial heard yet another account of the attempted home invasion that led to Kelley Leggett's death from a shotgun blast on Nov. 9, 2010.

Tuesday's version came from Cleveland Gary, one of two brothers who have pleaded guilty in the case. The story Gary told the court was not the same as he told police who arrested him in Phenix City just hours after the crime, nor the one he told after that, or another he told after the second one, or a third or a fourth.

Scales' defense attorney Cynthia Lain claimed Gary in fact told jurors a fifth version of the shooting that once again conflicted with his earlier accounts, though she said each has the same aim: to deflect blame from his little brother and obfuscate the younger sibling's involvement.

Authorities have said the elder Gary, now 26, played a prominent role in the misguided robbery attempt in which assailants targeted an apartment other than the one Gary's cousin Daveka Wade told them to invade. Police said Wade wanted Gary and a gang of gunmen to rob two women who had drugs and money. Instead the crew tried to force their way into the apartment Leggett, 52, shared with his brother and his fiancee.

Responding to a knock at the door, Leggett saw guns and shut the door, through which one of the men fired a shotgun blast that blew Leggett's forehead open. A barrage of gunfire followed from a shotgun, a 9 mm handgun and a .380 pistol.

Witnesses reported seeing several gunmen emerge from two 1980s primer-gray cars parked at a nearby car wash before the shooting. Police later charged five suspects, including Scales, Wade, the two Gary brothers and Jarvis Alexander.

Lain previously described Alexander as one of the Garys' cousins. Cleveland Gary testified Tuesday that they are not related, just longtime friends.

Scales, the first to go to trial, is accused of firing the fatal blast through the door. Lain claims the other suspects are trying to pin the killing on Wade to escape murder charges.

Despite witnesses' having seen two primer-gray vehicles matching the descriptions of Gary's Oldsmobile Cutlass and his brother's Chevy Malibu, and despite police finding guns matching crime-scene evidence in each car, Gary testified Tuesday that only he, Scales and Wade went to the 475 Old Buena Vista Road apartments that day in his Cutlass. His brother stayed home, he said.

They drove to the apartments earlier in the day to figure out which building to hit, he said, and Wade argued with neighbors about which one it was before one was pointed out to him. When they returned that evening, Wade did not go to the building because the women would have recognized him, Gary said.

Gary said he went to the side of the building while Scales knocked on the door, then fired through it. When Scales fired, Gary began firing into the residence through a window, he said, then told Scales, "Come on, bro, let's go." They ran back to his Cutlass, where Wade rejoined them, and drove to the Gary family's home on South Dixon Drive.

Later Scales and the Gary brothers went to a downtown nightclub. Leaving the club around 2:30 a.m. with his younger brother passed out in the back seat, Gary picked up a female friend whom he offered a ride home, dropped Scales off at Booker T. Washington Apartments and picked up his girlfriend there.

He was giving his friend a ride home when police tried to stop him on Buena Vista Road. Topping 100 mph, Gary led police on a chase into downtown Columbus, he said, claiming his brother never woke up until they escaped to Phenix City.

But Officer Jason Swails earlier testified that he pulled up alongside the Cutlass going 100 mph down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and saw a young man matching the younger brother's description sitting up in the vehicle.

Though Swails was ordered to end the pursuit, Phenix City police later saw Gary's mother, Evelyn, driving the Chevy Malibu to pick her sons up at Phenix City's Riverview Apartments, where officers seized both the Malibu and the Cutlass and detained the cars' occupants.

In the Malibu with Evelyn Gary was Alexander. In their vehicle police found the Glock 9 mm Gary said he'd fired into Leggett's apartment. Under a seat in the Cutlass they found a .380 pistol, which also matched evidence found at the crime scene.

That gun belonged to Gary's younger brother, who earlier testified he loaned the weapon to Scales. But Gary said he never saw Scales with the gun, never saw the gun fired at Leggett's home, and didn't know it was in his car. He said the Glock was in his mother's car because he'd asked one of the women with him to "walk off" with it when Phenix City police arrived, and the woman stashed it in his mother's car.

Gary, who already has four drug-related felony convictions from 2005 through 2008, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault in Leggett's homicide. He is expected to be sentenced to 30 years in prison, dodging the maximum sentence of life.

His brother Tevin Gary, 20, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery and theft by receiving stolen property. He is expected to get 10 years in prison and 10 on probation.

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